Cathedral for art and history

Eugène Emmanuel VIOLLET-LE-DUC

Architect

1814-1879

In France of the 1830s, the romantic movement showcased the medieval Art. One of the direct consequences was the creation of the Commission des Monuments Historiques. Prosper Mérimée, the writer but also the inspector general of Historical Monuments, approached Viollet-le-Duc about carrying out restoration work on the Abbey of Vézelay and Sainte Chapelle. The Commission then assigned the restoration-rescue of Notre-Dame de Paris to him, undertaken in 1845 and a task that would occupy the rest of his days.

Also among the major works of Viollet-le-Duc was the restoration of the fortified town of Carcassonne and the reconstruction of the Pierrefonds château for Napoleon III, as well as a number of other projects on medieval defences across France and Europe.

In a number of plans, drawings and sketches, Viollet-le-Duc also made an attempt to revive gothic fittings. Several objects at Notre-Dame de Paris received this treatment including the pulpit, the banc d’oeuvre [foremost pew] (now removed), the chapel altars and the choir high-altar, the baptismal fonts, the crown of light, the lustres, candelabra and chandeliers, as well as a number of pieces of liturgical silverwork that can be seen in the cathedral Treasury.

His theoretical inquiry into the gothic influenced a number of Art Nouveau artists such as Guimard, Gaudi and Horta.

Two Viollet-le-duc works would go on to have authoritative status: the Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XI au XVIe siècle (1854-1868) and the Dictionnaire raisonné du mobilier français de l’époque Carolingienne à la Renaissance (1858-1870).

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