• Excavations began on February 2 in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

    They have already revealed burials including a lead sarcophagus from the 14th century, and pieces of the old rood screen.

  • Preventive research will stop on March 25, even if new discoveries are made, due to the schedule that sets the end of the renovation and the reopening of the cathedral at 2024.

  • Archaeologists and historians know that fully excavating the cathedral would allow fruitful research for science, but would prevent its reopening to the public.

On March 14, the Ministry of Culture announced the discovery of important archaeological remains in the research preceding the reconstruction work on the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.

This Monday, the last week of excavations begins, which should end on Friday, March 25.

What can we expect from further excavations and new discoveries?

This is what

20 Minutes

sought to find out.

A lead sarcophagus dating from the 14th century and pieces of the old rood screen of Notre-Dame destroyed in the 17th century… The treasures discovered by archaeologists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) are exceptional.

The sarcophagus first.

If it is not surprising to find one from this period in a church and that we know that Notre-Dame overlooks at least 400 graves, it is unique in its kind since it is the only one discovered in Paris. .

For the pieces of rood screen, it is rather the shallow depth and the quality of their preservation that are of concern.

One last sector… and that's it

Enough to whet the appetite of archaeologists and history buffs.

Rest assured, the last week could see even more new finds emerging from the cathedral.

After the sectors of the sarcophagus and that of the rood screen, there remains a third to be excavated with a masonry which could take part of an old state of the Gothic cathedral, or even of a more former building, the Romanesque cathedral on which we have very little of elements.

And after ?

“We will not push the investigations further, explains Dorothée Chaoui-Derieux of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), which orders the excavations, we know that there are burials everywhere, that the rampart of the Lower Empire passes under the cathedral at the level of the south aisle, but these are sectors which are not concerned by the construction site, and by the archaeological operations to come.


An agenda to keep

In summary, despite recent discoveries and even in the event of news to come, the excavations will stop.

What frustrate archaeologists, no doubt, but the starting deal was clear, Emmanuel Macron had given five years for the reconstruction of the cathedral, and three have already passed.

And General Georgelin, president of the public establishment for the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame, is determined to respect the schedules.

A decision and a stiffness that could shock, but which can be explained according to Mathieu Louis, architectural historian, specialist in cathedrals and professor at the University of Paris-Cergy: "There are a lot of things buried under the cathedral because ere has been a succession of buildings since, at least, the Gallo-Roman era.

If we wanted to do complete excavations, reopening in 2024 would be impossible.


Our Lady is not Pompeii

First, the excavations could only take place on the parts which are not scaffolded, but some are for the renovation, and others simply to support the weakened parts.

Then, these excavations would have to be carried out before the renovation work on the equipment, because of the dust they would raise, which is impossible over the remaining two years.

“It would have to be done piece by piece, it would be extremely complicated, with the renovation, or the visits in the years to come.

In addition, some parts of the ground are not damaged, you can't touch them like that.


“It would be fantastic to go and see under the nave, where the previous cathedral is, under the heart.

And even more, the previous cathedral was the largest early Christian basilica in Gaul,” adds Mathieu Lours.

But the historian makes up his mind: “Our Lady is not Pompeii.

The diocese needs its cathedral, Paris needs Notre-Dame and visitors want to see it.

It would be exciting to search everything, but you have to hold between the use of the building and the knowledge.

A philosopher, he is already delighted with the discoveries that have been made, the first for 160 years.


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  • Story

  • Notre Dame of Paris

  • Paris

  • Emmanuel Macron

  • Archeology

  • Ile-de-France

  • Notre-Dame de Paris fire

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