Several tombs and one lead coffin : The bowels of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, which is undergoing reconstruction, have revealed important archaeological remains that may date back to the 14th century.
The remains were found at the point where the central aisle of the nave meets the side structure (side wing) of the cathedral. Nobody knows who
Notre Dame suffered a fire that completely destroyed the roof structure on April 15, 2019. As part of the reconstruction work, huge scaffolding about 100 meters high will be installed at this intersection to rebuild the tower.
To ensure the solidity of the soil, excavations began on the site.
This work revealed a complete underfloor heating system, in existence since the 19th century. Among the brick structures, the sarcophagus was found that appears to have been lead deformed by the weight of the earth and stones.
A lead sarcophagus found in Notre-Dame de Paris dating back to the 14th century – Photo: Julien de Rosa / AFP
A few meters away, archaeologists are working hard to unearth another precious find: the remains of an ancient Juba, or alto choir.
The choir was a decorated stone choir carved shapes, that separated the choir from the rest of the church for centuries. Notre Dame was built around 1230 and destroyed in the early 18th century.
Experts explained that the Catholic Church has changed its rites over the centuries, and this altar, which separated believers from office, lost its meaning.
Archaeologists working in Notre Dame – Photo: Julien de Rosa / AFP
As was common at the time, the stones were reused in the same work.
This Tuesday (15), a few centimeters from the surface, an archaeologist was gently scrubbing his carved and outstretched hands, as if begging.
In plastic baskets, already removed from the ground, there was a bust of a bearded man and a vegetable carved, with traces of the paint with which they were made.
Dominic Garcia, head of the National Institute for Archaeological Research, explained that “the discovery of this sarcophagus will allow us to better understand the funerary practices and rituals” of the Middle Ages.
These are not the first human remains found at Notre Dame, which have been used since its inception as a cemetery, especially for those responsible for the temple or religious figures.
But they never found a well-preserved sarcophagus.
So far, archaeologists have managed to insert a small endoscopic camera inside the sarcophagus. “You can see pieces of cloth, hair and a pillow of leaves above the head, a well-known phenomenon” when religious clergy were buried, explains Christophe Besnier, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation.
“The fact that these botanical elements are still present inside presupposes a very good state of preservation” of the body, added this expert.
Fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris – Photo: Rodrigo Sanchez / G1
A group photo showing the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris before and after the fire – Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP; Thomas Samson / Agence France-Presse
It is currently unknown who the body might have been, although the site indicates that it was an important figure, early in the mythical temple’s life.
“It’s a great emotion, this cathedral represents the entire history of Paris, and to find yourself in front of these monuments is very impressive,” Culture Minister Roslyn Bachelot said at the foot of the coffin.
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