July 07, 2012

Notre Dame: 1793

Cathedral of Notre Dame, West façade; Gallery of Kings.

Head of a King, 13th c. BC,
original sculpture from
Gallery of the Kings of Judah,
Notre Dame, Paris. Musee de Cluny.
The French Revolution saw many acts of vandalism against age old buildings and artworks.  In 1793 a mob moved towards the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  The target was the Gallery of Kings, which displayed twenty-eight 13th century sculptures of the biblical Kings of Judah and Israel on the west façade. It is believed that the kings may have been misinterpreted as Kings of France by the mob.

Once they arrived, ladders were hoisted against the medieval wall. One by one nooses were thrown up around the statues' necks, and with a great force, they were pulled down.  Each fallen king was met with a roar and cheers from the crowd.

Moments after the sixty-foot plummet, the heads, the hands and the feet of each statue were removed.  The broken pieces were then thrown into the Seine.  In 1977 an excavation near by found some of the heads that were broken from the statues in 1793.  These pieces are on display at the Cluny Museum (Musée National du Moyen Âge, Museum of the Middle Ages) in Paris.

3 comments

  1. Yeah, I was a little saddened to realize that with most of the French cathedrals, you'd see more interesting medieval statues and art at the museums nearby. (The Cluny museum was a lot more fun than Notre Dame, in fact.)

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  2. The plummet from the niches where the king's statues stood to the pavement below is a LOT more than 6 feet!
    More like 60 perhaps!

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  3. It is more like 60 feet! Not sure why I just put 6. They wouldn't have needed ladders if it were 6! :)

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