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Notre Dame of Paris

Notre Dame of Paris (1160s AD)

A Roman temple to Jupiter

In the time of the Romans, about 100 AD, the city council of Paris built a temple. They dedicated it to the Roman god Jupiter. The temple was on the island in the middle of Paris, the Ile de la Cité. In fact, it was right where the cathedral of Notre Dame stands today.

Roman temples
The god Jupiter
Roman religion
The cathedral of Notre Dame
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Church of St. Stephen

When everyone in Paris decided (or were forced) to become Christians, about 400 AD, they didn’t need the old temple anymore. Instead the Merovingian king Childebert built a “magnificent church” (according to Gregory of Tours) in 528 AD. Childebert dedicated his to Saint Stephen. (That’s St. Etienne in French.)

Why did they become Christians?
The Merovingian kings
What is a Christian saint?

What did it look like?

We don’t know too much about this early church. It was probably based on Roman basilicas, like other early churches. Or, it might have been made of the old Roman temple, converted into a church.

What’s a Roman basilica?

What happened to this church?

Not much is left of the church of Saint Steven. The bishop Maurice de Sully tore it down in 1160. That’s how he made room to build the new church of Notre Dame, which is still there today.

Learn by doing: watch a building being torn down
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Bibliography and further reading about Notre Dame:


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