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Who Were The People Buried In The Mysterious Notre Dame Sarcophagi?

There is even a painting of one of them in the Louvre!

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

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The painting show the canon giving mass in a newly refurbished choir
The painting of Mass of Canon Antoine de La Porte by Jean Jouvenet. Image Credit: © 2012 RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Michel Urtado

After the roof of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris burned down in 2019, major work took place around the iconic church. During that undertaking, two sarcophagi were discovered, which intrigued archeologists to no end. The coffins were made of lead, so special precautions had to be taken to open them. They were opened a few weeks ago, finally revealing who was laid to rest there. 

The oldest of the two is yet to be identified and it is currently nicknamed "Le Cavalier" (the horse rider) as forensic analysis shows that he likely rode horses from an early age. He appeared to be between 25 and 40 years old when he died. He was probably an aristocrat, as his skull was deformed likely from wearing a headdress as a toddler. The bones of this person show signs of chronic disease and he had lost his teeth before his death. 

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The team hopes to find the identity of this mysterious (and likely wealthy ) man buried in Notre Dame. The records extend to many centuries ago, so if his death happened between 1650 and the early 1700s, they should be able to find out who Le Cavalier was. 

The second person not only has a name but we can even get an idea of what he looked like. In life, he was Antoine de la Porte Canon of Notre Dame. He was known as the Jubilee Canon as he had that role for over 50 years. He died at the age of 83 on December 24, 1710.

painting of Mass of Canon Antoine de La Porte by Jean Jouvenet.
The painting of Mass of Canon Antoine de La Porte by Jean Jouvenet. Image Credit: © 2012 RMN-Grand Palais (Louvre museum) / Michel Urtado


The painting of de La Porte was likely commissioned by the Chapter of Notre Dame in honor of the Canon. Artist Jean Jouvenet probably painted it around 1708-1710 and it shows de La Porte officiating mass in the refurbished choir of Notre Dame. However, the scene in the painting is actually made up! When Jouvenet painted this piece, the choir was still under construction and the statues were not placed until several years later. It was actually de La Porte that paid for those works, fulfilling the wishes of King Louis XIII. 

The investigation has just begun investigating these bodies and more findings will be published in time. 


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