May 20, 2020.
Lindsay Shepherd Cook (VC'10), Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College, returns to discuss her English translation of a new monograph by former Vassar Professor of Art Andrew Tallon and Dany Sandron, University Professor at the University of the Sorbonne, entitled Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History(Penn State, 2020).
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 Lindsay Cook, Notre Dame Cathedral is an enlightening history of one of the world’s most treasured architectural achievements.