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Notre Dame sarcophagus soon to be opened

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J-P Mauro - published on 04/20/22

The sarcophagus discovered under Notre Dame Cathedral in March has been removed, and reconstruction is back on track.

In March, the restoration effort at Notre Dame de Paris revealed a surprising discovery: a centuries-old sarcophagus. Now, the team of experts working to excavate the site has announced that they will soon open it.

Sarcophagus

According to Axios, the sarcophagus was only discovered because of the fire that devastated the cathedral in April of 2019. The leaden casket was resting below the floor where Notre Dame’s vaults came crashing down. It was while ensuring the floor was sturdy enough to support new scaffolding that the sarcophagus was found. 

It is unknown who rests within the sarcophagus, but artifacts buried in the same spot have been dated to the 14th century. It is thought that the dented coffin also originated from this era, however only an examination of the remains will reveal information about the inhabitant of the tomb. 

In March, Aleteia reported that experts were able to slip a small camera within the sarcophagus. The camera caught images of cloth and organic material such as hair and leaves. The leaves may be an indicator that the individual was of high status, as French nobility were known to have been buried with boxwood leaves to help preserve the body.

Handled with care

Business Insider notes that subsequent research will be conducted by France’s Institute of Forensic Medicine. As for who will open the sarcophagus, France’s National Institute for Preventative Archaeological Research (INRAP) will take the lead. 

Dominique Garcia, head of INRAP, noted that the institute is conscious that this buried individual’s final resting place is more than just an artifact. She told France 24: 

“A human body is not an archaeological object,” he said. “As human remains, the civil code applies and archaeologists will study it as such.”

Garcia went on to note that when the examination is over, the remains will be treated as an “anthropological asset” rather than an archaeological antiquity. 

Reconstruction

It is unlikely that the sarcophagus will be replaced underneath the floor of Notre Dame. Now that it has been safely removed, the restoration team can erect the scaffolding that will allow them to reconstruct Notre Dame’s iconic spire.

The restoration of Notre Dame de Paris is continuing on schedule for the planned reopening in 2024. French President Emmanuel Macron visited the site on April 15, 2022, on the three-year anniversary of the fire, which occurred on Good Friday. 

The Washington Examiner reports that Macron praised the “extraordinary progress” made by the restoration teams. He reiterated his hope to see the storied French Catholic monument reopened in time for the next Olympics, which will be hosted by Paris. He said: 

“In this period when we are coming out of COVID-19 and [in the middle of] war in Europe, it is also a testimony of hope, it makes a lot of sense,” the president said.

Read more at NPR.

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