The newly renovated Notre-Dame isn’t scheduled to reopen to the general public till Dec. 8, 2024, however a few of the cathedral’s oldest treasures — survivors of revolutions, regime change and disasters — at the moment are on show on the Louvre.
And, though that they had been contained in the cathedral for hundreds of years, the existence of a few of these items got here as a complete shock, even to consultants.
Greater than 120 objects, starting from medieval illuminated manuscripts and a Twelfth-century bishop’s gold ring to ornately embroidered vestments and a number of reliquaries — which as soon as housed what was mentioned to be Jesus’s crown of thorns and fragments of his cross — are featured in “The Treasury of Notre-Dame Cathedral, from Its Origins to Viollet-le-Duc” (via Jan. 29).
The title refers to Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the celebrated French architect who restored the constructing within the mid-Nineteenth century, including its spire (which collapsed within the 2019 hearth), its well-known gargoyles and different options. However he additionally designed furnishings and objects used for ritual and worship, a few of that are highlights of the present: an imposing gold vessel, relationship to 1867, that was used throughout devotional ceremonies to show a consecrated host, and an intricately enameled gold dove that served as a receptacle for holy oils.
Whereas Notre-Dame’s vestry — a separate area, off the choir, which held the cathedral’s treasury — was not touched by the blaze that tore via the constructing on April 15, 2019, the destruction of the positioning and its safety system meant that every one the cathedral’s treasures needed to be eliminated instantly, mentioned Anne Dion-Tenenbaum, a co-curator of the exhibition. Most items at the moment are being saved within the Louvre’s Division of Ornamental Arts, the place she is the deputy director.
“It gave us an opportunity to really study these objects, whose spiritual dimension makes them very striking,” Ms. Dion-Tenenbaum mentioned in an interview. Over time, she and her fellow curators uncovered a number of surprises within the treasury, which led them to look in different repositories round Paris and the remainder of the nation to unravel the mysteries of what was within the treasury, what wasn’t and what all of it meant.
One uncommon doc they turned up contained the primary recognized reference to the treasury: In a will relationship to the sixth century and written on papyrus, through the first Frankish dynasty of historic Gaul, a Merovingian noblewoman named Ermentrude left a silver plate price 60 gold cash to Notre-Dame. And a richly coloured prayer e-book illustration, from across the fifteenth century, depicted the second within the early Twelfth century when what was mentioned to be a fraction of Jesus’s cross arrived at Notre-Dame.
The grand cathedral’s repositories additionally yielded extremely embellished clothes from the Nineteenth century, like a cope, or lengthy cloak, in gold fabric embroidered with lilies, peonies and oak branches, made about 200 years in the past for King Charles X of France by silk producers in Lyon. An elaborate, all-but forgotten ecclesiastical cape worn by an Italian cleric at Napoleon’s coronation in 1804 resurfaced, too. Although it’s depicted in a monumental painting by Jacques-Louis David that’s on show on the Louvre, the cape had by no means been recognized as being worn on the occasion, and so was saved, anonymously, for greater than two centuries. The “Treasury of Notre-Dame” exhibition is its first public displaying.
Many objects within the exhibition usually are not recognized by Parisians, Ms. Dion-Tenenbaum mentioned, as a result of, prior to now, the treasury primarily was visited by vacationers. However as soon as the cathedral reopens, she hopes that the French, too, will uncover the synergies between Viollet-le-Duc’s renovation of the constructing and the objects it has held.
“What characterizes this treasure is that it’s a very homogeneous example of the 19th century,” she mentioned. “That the place, its vitrines and its contents are all the work of a single architect gives it a harmony that is unique in the world.”