Episode 4

Acoustic and textiles at Notre-Dame de Paris

By Sarabeth Mullins & Béatrice Caseau Chevallier

When asked to picture Notre-Dame, a modern visitor might imagine the cathedral as we know it in the 20th and 21st centuries, with vast expanses of austere stone. However, the preferred aesthetic of its past resulted in a cathedral richly decorated with tapestries, textiles, paintings, banners, and other art objects. Beyond the decorations for important religious holidays at the cathedral, state events required their own temporary monuments such as catafalques, thrones, and tents. Consequently, for these important moments, the cathedral would be swathed in materials, altering its acoustic state as well as its visual state. Research is ongoing to determine what effect the crowds of spectators and special adornments would have had on the experience of coronations, funerals, marriages, and other significant moments of the cathedral’s history. These studies include characterizing the acoustic behavior of historic textiles both as decoration and as represented in the clothing of crowds.