14th century tomb found beneath Notre Dame
By Lindsey Anderson18 March 2022
Construction crews and archeologists working to restore Notre Dame Cathedral unearthed a “completely preserved, human-shaped sarcophagus made of lead” in an area where they were preparing to erect scaffolding.
The sarcophagus and several tombs, which likely date back to the 14th century, were discovered by archeologists as restoration efforts continue following the devastating fire that nearly destroyed the famous Parisian Cathedral in 2019. It is common practice in France for archeologists to be on sites when work is being done on ancient structures.
According to Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, France’s Minister of Culture, work had just begun to rebuild the Cathedral’s spire when crews digging holes for scaffolding footings came into contact with the lead coffin. The remnants of the graveyard are of “remarkable scientific quality,” Bachelot-Narquin said.
Using a small endoscopic camera, workers were able to get a glimpse inside of the tomb, where they spotted what appears to be a perfectly mummified corpse.
Christophe Besnier, the lead archaeologist, told Agence France-Presse and on-site reporters the coffin was likely made for a senior dignitary in the 1300s.
“You can glimpse pieces of fabric, hair and a pillow of leaves on top of the head, a well-known phenomenon when religious leaders were buried,” Besnier said. “The fact that these plant elements are still inside means the body is in a very good state of conservation.”
Aside from the tomb, archaeologists have also discovered painted sculptures that include a pair of carved hands and vegetables and remnants from the original spire’s construction in 1220.
The excavation, which started on February 2, is being carried out by the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP.)