The two sarcophagi from Notre-Dame reveal some of their secrets

For all that misfortune is good, could remind the archaeologists who, after the fire in Notre-Dame de Paris on 15 April 2019, got the unexpected opportunity to work in the cathedral. This was especially the case in the spring of 2022 at the crossing of the transept, between the nave and the chancel, where, in order to reconstruct the vault and the spire, an impressive scaffolding of 700 tons had to be set up. When the installation of this heavy Meccano forced the soil to be paid out over several tens of centimeters in a place where the presence of remains was suspected, specialists from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (Inrap) intervened. We know the rest: two anthropomorphic lead coffins were unearthed. Who was inside? A first answer was given by the scientific team on Friday, December 9 in Toulouse.

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Why go to Haute-Garonne to solve one “cold case” centuries old Parisian? To take advantage of the know-how of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Toulouse University Hospital, where the analysis of the unusual mummy of Louise de Quengo was carried out, discovered during the excavation of the Jacobin monastery in Rennes in 2013, it is also in Toulouse , who works Eric Crubézy, professor at Paul-Sabatier University, one of the pioneers of archaeoanthropology in France, who has excavated burials and necropolises all over the world, from Egypt to Siberia.

The problems are different for the two inhabitants of the coffins, because one is known and the other is not. One is where he was buried, the other has been moved. One was an old man, the other a man still young at the time of his death. Let’s save the mystery for last and begin with the identified deceased. “His coffin was in the perfect axis of the nave and the central portal, explains Inrap archaeologist Christophe Besnier, head of the Notre-Dame excavations. We knew his identity from the start thanks to three elements. Beneath the tombstone was a large lead plaque with a Latin epitaph saying it was Antoine de la Porte. »

The plate attached to one of the coffins.  She said:
At the opening of sarcophagi in Notre-Dame de Paris, at the Medico-Legal Institute of Toulouse University Hospital.

The second indication is a small plaque attached to the coffin. She says : “Cy is the body of Messire Antoine de la Porte the canon of the church [un mot effacé] died 24 Dec 1710 aged 83e year. Requiescat at pace. » The third and final clue takes the form of three bronze medallions bearing the image of the deceased placed on the “sarcophagus”. Antoine de la Porte was “cannon for more than fifty years, earning him the nickname “anniversary cannon”, remembers Christophe Besnier. He was a wealthy patron and he made a donation of 10,000 pounds to repair the enclosure of the choir of Notre-Dame de Paris. »

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