Notre Dame Cathedral

Nine Centuries of History

By (author) Dany Sandron, Andrew Tallon Translated by Andrew Tallon, Lindsay Cook

Paperback - £27.95

Publication date:

15 March 2020

Length of book:

192 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271086224

Since its construction, Notre Dame Cathedral has played a central role in French cultural identity. In the wake of the tragic fire of 2019, questions of how to restore the fabric of this quintessential French monument are once more at the forefront. This all-too-prescient book, first published in French in 2013, takes a central place in the conversation.

The Gothic cathedral par excellence, Notre Dame set the architectural bar in the competitive years of the third quarter of the twelfth century and dazzled the architects and aesthetes of the Enlightenment with its structural ingenuity. In the nineteenth century, the cathedral became the touchstone of a movement to restore medieval patrimony to its rightful place at the cultural heart of France: it was transformed into a colossal laboratory in which architects Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc anatomized structures, dismembered them, put them back, or built them anew—all the while documenting their work with scientific precision.

Taking as their point of departure a three-dimensional laser scan of the cathedral created in 2010, architectural historians Dany Sandron and the late Andrew Tallon tell the story of the construction and reconstruction of Notre Dame in visual terms. With over a billion points of data, the scan supplies a highly accurate spatial map of the building, which is anatomized and rebuilt virtually. Fourteen double-page images represent the cathedral at specific points in time, while the accompanying text sets out the history of the building, addressing key topics such as the fundraising campaign, the construction of the vaults, and the liturgical function of the choir.

Featuring 170 full-color illustrations and elegantly translated by Andrew Tallon and Lindsay Cook, Notre Dame Cathedral is an enlightening history of one of the world’s most treasured architectural achievements.

“Smaller, more concise, and more streamlined than a traditional monograph, it emphasizes a series of graphics developed from Tallon’s 3D-scan data, which together purport to show the development of Notre-Dame over the nine centuries of its history. In this way it helps to make the fruits of recent research on the cathedral’s history readily accessible to nonspecialist readers. The new translation undertaken by Lindsay Cook, who studied with both Murray and Tallon and whose own research considers parish churches constructed in the orbit of Notre-Dame, now effectively expands that mission to anglophone audiences.”

—Robert Bork,