Secret Hidden Under Iconic Notre Dame Cathedral About To Be Opened

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A devastating fire recently led to a secret discovery with roots in the 14th century. Anthropologists are set to open a sealed sarcophagus found underneath the historical Notre Dame Cathedral in France.

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Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA/AFP via Getty Images

Sealed Sarcophagus

On the outside, the sarcophagus is made of lead and shaped like a human body. It’s well preserved, with only a few cracks. Scientists were able to slide an endoscopic camera through one of those cracks to peek inside. Inside, they saw some cloth, hair, plants, and some yet-to-be-identified objects.

“The fact that these plants are still there indicates that the contents have been very well preserved,” Christophe Besnier from France’s National Archaeological Institute (INRAP) told reporters via Reuters.

Next Steps

Under French law, since the tomb likely houses a human, the study of it will have an anthropological focus, rather than an archeological one. The sarcophagus will soon be sent to the Institute of Forensic Medicine in southern France. Experts there will use carbon dating technology to learn more about the tomb’s timeframe and possibly more about the person inside of it.

“If it turns out that it is in fact a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are dealing with an extremely rare burial practice,” Besnier said.

Once the sarcophagus is fully examined, it will likely be reburied underneath Notre Dame Cathedral once its renovation is complete.

Other Items Also Found

The sealed sarcophagus is just one of a few items found buried underneath the church. Scientists also found statues, sculptures, furniture, and fragments of an original rood screen. Popular from the 13th to 18th centuries, a rood screen is a partition, often with ornate designs, that separates the clergy from the choir during mass. You can already see parts of a rood screen in the Louvre.

Future Of Notre Dame

Restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral has been ongoing since a devastating fire ravaged it back in 2019. Officials hope renovations will be complete in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. In the meantime, tourists are still able to visit Notre Dame’s square in person and experience an augmented reality tour of the cathedral at the Collège des Bernardins in Paris. A similar exhibit is also now open at the National Museum Building in Washington D.C. It runs through September 2022.

Even though you can’t see Notre Dame right now, here’s a list of other beautiful churches not to be missed, plus our tips to avoid long lines at popular Paris attractions, and why you should consider taking a cooking class while on vacation in France.

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