The fire that broke out on April 15, 2019, in Notre-Dame Cathedral spared the archeological crypt located under the square in front of the cathedral. After painstaking work to remove the lead dust, the archeological crypt reopened to the public last Wednesday, hosting an exhibition of two important figures in the history of medieval architecture: author Victor Hugo, who gave birth to the hunchbacked bell ringer, Quasimodo, in 1831, and the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who designed the magnificent bell tower, which collapsed due to the fire, and led the restoration of the church a few years later.
The exhibition mostly consists of photographs, sketches, paintings and digital screens that reflect the cathedral’s fascination with the world, from its historical origins to modern animated films.
The curator of the exhibition, Anne de Moudenard, claims that Hugo’s novel “Notre-Dame de Paris” was the factor that contributed to growing the cathedral’s worldwide reputation: “The cathedral contributes to making this cathedral a national monument,” she told at Associated Press. With the statues of the kings of France removed from Notre-Dame during the French Revolution and the building growing fragile, “Victor Hugo himself was upset by the state of this historical heritage,” she continued. She added that, in a pamphlet he published in 1825, the author attacked “those who want to get their hands on old buildings to transform them into quarries.”
“The exhibition begins with what the cathedral was like at the time the novel was published,” explained curator of the Maison de Victor Hugo museum in Paris in Paris. “It was a terribly disturbing and dangerous building that in no way resembled a luminous and radiant cathedral,” he said.
The crypt exhibition, which includes archeological findings excavated below the Île de la Cité and ruins the fortifications and the hot springs, will be open to the public until the end of 2022.
🎉C'est aujourd'hui la réouverture de la @Crypte_Paris !
Située sous le parvis de la cathédrale, la Crypte dévoile une exposition sur l’histoire de #NotreDame de Paris au temps de Victor Hugo et d’Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
— Paris Musées (@parismusees) September 9, 2020