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Video transcript

[Music] the ancient Romans founded the city of Paris in the middle of a river on an island called the Ile de la Cite a and that's where we're standing in front of one of the great Gothic cathedrals Notre Dame de Paris so we're really in the heart of Paris the theological center of Paris with the Church of Notre Dame but also the political center for right near the Louvre which was the palace of the king and before the Louvre the king's palace was even closer to this Cathedral the cathedral is at Putin's symbol both a theological power but also of worldly power and so it makes sense that the church was attacked during the French Revolution we can see it in the background of Delacroix's Liberty leading the people that image of a revolution that's right from 1830 and in that painting we can actually see the symbol of revolutionary France the tricolor flag flying from one of the towers and of course before that revolution 1830 Napoleon had been crowned here as emperor of France and so there really is this powerful historical tradition that begins in the medieval world but goes right up to the modern notre-dame de Paris it was the tallest Gothic cathedral when it was built it outstripped all of the previous gothic churches and was taller even than the largest church in the world at that point which was at Cluny and the gothic architects employed a number of methods to achieve that verticality the most obvious among them are the flying buttresses so these are beautiful external skeletal forms that help take the lateral weight that is produced by the massive vaulting the massive stone roof and draws it outside the church so that the inside of the church the walls of the church can be opened up and as much light can be brought in as possible the gothic architects wanted to open up the walls to windows and of course glass is not weight-bearing glass can support the weight of especially the vaulting and here's the important issue is they can't bring the weight straight down because it actually pushes out and therefore you need to have fairly massive walls or in this case buttresses and flying buttresses so the difference between a buttress and a flying buttress is pretty straightforward a buttress is a solid masonry wall pin' dick euler to the walls of the cathedral that's meant to keep the walls themselves from being pushed outwards a flying buttress is not a solid wall really it's just a rib that allows for the thrust to be brought down into the more solid mass of the buttress below and we can see that all around no true DOM now much of this was restored in the nineteenth century but it's important to understand that the church has been under construction and renovation since it was begun well there are several building campaigns just in the 12th in the 13th century and moving up through the 14th century and onward a series of changes it's really not unusual for a gothic Church to have such a long building campaign and then they were often restored later in the 19th and in the 20th century this church looks spectacular though now doesn't it it doesn't clearly a lot of people today are enjoying it when you first walk in and you look down the length of the nave you're in this long narrow very tall space and that's in part because the three part elevation is closed off to you from that angle as one looks down the length of the church but as you walk down especially the aisles the full width of the church and its complexity open up and the way that this shrinks the walls of stone and replaces it with walls of glass felt really miraculous I think if you look up at the clerestory you have these panes of glass these sheets of light that seem to almost float and there is really a sense of the miraculous then as you move down to the gallery you've got an unprecedented delicacy in the columns that seem to miraculously support everything above it including the vaulting but of course in truth the weight is borne outward and then as you move down to the first level the part of the church that's doing the real work you can see those huge buttresses that had been made into separate chapels in the 13th century if you look at the giant piers of really a series of bundled columns many of which soar all the way to the roof in their bundling other all of these narrow elements one loses sight of just how massive those piers are it's the brilliance of this kind of masking and its emphasis on verticality this emphasis on line all of these key characteristics of the Gothic that soaring quality that almost feels as though it's lifting you up toward the heavenly you