Notre-Dame restoration work unearths potentially ‘spectacular find’
An ancient sarcophagus, parts of which date back to the 13th century, has been found under the Paris cathedral
Archaeologists have found an ancient lead sarcophagus under Notre-Dame cathedral, with fragments of a rood screen, offering new insight into the history of the building which is under reconstruction after a devastating fire in 2019.
Notre-Dame, which dates back to the 12th century, commissioned the excavation works inside the cathedral as a precautionary measure before the installation of scaffolding needed to restore a 100m high wooden roof ridge.
We were able to send a small camera inside which showed cloth remains, organic matter such as hair, and plant remains.Christophe Besnier from France’s National Archaeological Institute
“The floor of the transept crossing has revealed remains of remarkable scientific quality,” France’s culture minister Roselyne Bachelot said, adding that excavation works have been extended until March 25.
The excavation site lies under a stony layer that dates from the 18th century, but some lower levels go back as far as the 14th, and some even the early 13th century, the culture ministry said.
Christophe Besnier from France’s National Archaeological Institute said: “We were able to send a small camera inside which showed cloth remains, organic matter such as hair, and plant remains.”
“That these plants are still there indicates the contents have been very well preserved.”
Archaeologists said the lead sarcophagus probably belonged to a high dignitary and could date back to the 14th century, which, if confirmed, would make it a spectacular find.
The excavation also revealed a pit immediately below the cathedral floor, which was likely to have been made around 1230, when Notre-Dame, one of the oldest examples of French Gothic, was under construction.