Portal of the Virgin

Portal of the Virgin

Located on the left side of the west façade, the portal of the Virgin evokes, according to the tradition of the Church, the death of Mary, her assumption to paradise and her coronation as queen of heaven. It was put into place around 1210-1220. 

Notre-Dame Cathedral is dedicated to Mary, and this portal is particularly dedicated to her. The Virgin and Child, placed in the center on the pillar between the two doors, tramples on the serpent, the symbol of Satan. The four seasons are represented on the left and the four ages of life on the right. They remind the faithful of the rhythm of life from the moment they enter the cathedral. Under the pillar, a bas-relief represents the story of Adam and Eve in three sequences: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (or earthly paradise), the temptation of Adam and original sin (the devil is represented under the form of Lilith, an alluring woman with a long serpent's tail) and the expulsion of the first men from the Garden of Eden. 

The tympanum is located above the two doors. On the lower lintel, three prophets appear on the left and three Kings of Israel on the right, holding small leather boxes inscribed with biblical texts. The heavenly Jerusalem is placed under a canopy. A chest symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant materializing God's promise to his people. Mary is considered the new Ark of the Covenant. The upper lintel represents the death of Mary surrounded by Jesus and the twelve apostles, Paul under a fig tree and John under an olive tree. Two angels lift her shroud to carry her to heaven. At the top of the tympanum of the portal of the Virgin, Mary is in paradise, seated and crowned by an angel. Jesus blesses her and gives her the scepter. Sacred Queen of Heaven, she sits beside her son. Around them, in the four arches of the portal, angels, patriarchs, kings and prophets make up a heavenly court.

Nine standing statues are placed on each side of the two doors. On the left, the statues represent the Emperor Constantine, an angel, Saint Denis and another an angel. On the right, they represent Saint John the Baptist, Saint Stephen, Saint Geneviève and Pope Saint Sylvester. Saint Denis, Saint Geneviève and Saint Marcel are the patron saints of Paris. Their presence at the entrance to the cathedral is a reminder of their benevolent protections over the faithful who enter Notre-Dame Cathedral. These statues, destroyed in 1793 following the French Revolution, were rebuilt in the 19th century under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc. The pillars of the two doors evoke the twelve months of the year. On the left, the signs of the zodiac symbolize the cycle. On the right, works of the months represent the terrestrial cycle. The stained glass windows of the western rose echo these themes.

 

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