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Notre Dame de Paris celebrates 6.5-million-euro 850th birthday

Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

Paris’s world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral opened a year of celebration of its 850th anniversary on Wednesday night with a special mass and film shows on the history of the mediaeval monument.


About 2,000 people gathered in front of the cathedral in freezing temperatures to hear Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, surrounded by about 100 priests, hail the cathedral’s standing in Paris, France and the world.

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The ceremony, held next to a pyramid entitled the “Road of Jubilation”, was followed by a commemorative mass with the cathedral’s choir singing. 

Built in 1163 Notre Dame was a mould-breaker in the development of Gothic architecture, adding ornamentation and structural ambition to the previously dominant Romanesque style and spawning thousands of imitators.

It suffered from neglect when Gothic art fell out of fashion and vandalism when anti-religious sentiment ran high, notable during the French revolution.

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Interior Minister Manual Valls, who was present during the ceremony, refrained from breaking the French state’s secular commitments with a comment on the religious aspect of the anniversary but did declare his “wonder before this jewel of Western art”.

The church, led by Cardinal Vingt-Trois, is locked in conflict with the government over the proposed legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Organising the jubilee celebrations, which include organ recitals, concerts, processions and celebrations of art works, has cost 6.5 million euros, collected from patrons, not counting work paid for by the state.

They continue until 24 November 2013.

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