Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris

Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Paris

Date ca. 1155-1250

Movement Early Gothic

Located at Paris, France


The plan of Notre-Dame, Paris, is one of uniformity—the transept barely extends beyond the aisles (though this may be a result of the cathedral’s limited plot), and while a double ambulatory has been incorporated, there are no radiating chapels that push through the exterior.


The original plan called for a four part elevation, though oculi were used instead of a triforium; these were later removed to allow for an expansion of the clerestory (allowing even more light), though some of these were reverted back yet again to oculi in the nineteenth century. Such large piercings of the walls added a sense of weightlessness. Even though a sexpartite groin vault was employed, the corresponding number of colonnettes does not change from pier to pier, even further emphasizing the overall feeling of uniformity and harmony. As at Saint-Denis, the bulk of the buttressing is visible from the exterior, not interior


The façade of Notre-Dame and the placement of its sculptural decorations does not appear haphazard as in Romanesque churches; rather, everything is governed by a strict order. The façade can be broken down into rough cubes; though four great buttresses divide the space, as at Saint-Denis, their weightiness has been hidden by the addition of bulk to the walls; further, such large piercings of the walls and the incorporation of lace-like treatment of the arcades help to add a sense of delicateness.