Some exciting news from The City of Light: Archeologists have found an ancient sarcophagus under the iconic Notre Dame cathedral this week, along with other ancient fragments, giving historians an entirely new perspective into the building's past. The Notre Dame, which dates back to the 12th century, is currently being reconstructed after the catastrophic fire in 2019. Here's what to know.
In April 2019, the historic building caught on fire beneath its' roof, and by the time the fire was extinguished, the roof had been destroyed - along with the walls and the building's spire. By fall 2021, the beloved landmark reconstruction had commenced. As renovations are currently underway on Paris' Notre Dame, archeologists recently discovered both an ancient lead sarcophagus and fragments of a rood screen. A sarcophagus is a box-like receptacle for a corpse, which can be buried or held above ground, and a rood screen was a popular wood or stone feature in late medieval church architecture. Archaeologists stated the sarcophagus could have belonged to a high dignitary and could potentially date back to the 14th century. Additionally, the excavations uncovered a pit immediately below the landmark's floor, likely to have been made around 1230, when the French Gothic structure was under construction.
The Parisian landmark commissioned the excavated works as a precautionary measure before renovations to the wooden roof ridge commenced. The stone layer of the excavation site of Notre Dame dates back to the 18th century, and some layers go back to as early as the 13th and 14th centuries. "The floor of the transept crossing has revealed remains of remarkable scientific quality," France's Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said. According to Christophe Besnier from France's National Archaeological Institute, they were able to "send a small camera inside which showed cloth remains, organic matter such as hair and plant remains," which indicated that these contents have all been well preserved.
The Notre Dame cathedral is scheduled to reopen in 2024, five years after the horrific fire, welcoming people from around the world to visit this historic site yet again. So stay tuned for any more exciting discoveries made under this Parisian gem.