Virtual Show in Paris Offers Journey Through the 850 Years of Notre Dame
‘Éternelle Notre-Dame’ is a virtual-reality expedition to the heart of the Paris cathedral dedicated to Our Lady, from its construction to the current restoration work.
Visitors who travel to Paris in 2022 will be able to relive the eight and a half centuries of history of Notre Dame, the emblematic cathedral, from the Middle Age to present day, as if they were there.
“Éternelle Notre-Dame,” a virtual-reality experience opened to public at the beginning of this year, offers a 45-minute full immersion in the greatest eras of this high place of Christianity.
Equipped with an immersive device, a virtual-reality headset connected to a backpack with a small computer, visitors can explore the various facets and evolutions — geographical and historical — of Notre Dame as well as its environment, completely recreated digitally on the basis of scientific surveys and historical sources.
A human holographic guide is present throughout the walk that begins in the 12th century, when the cathedral was built, in the golden age of medieval Europe.
The visitors, about 50 per session, are first led through the streets adjacent to the cathedral until they “reach” its facade, while “encountering” the stonemasons and other craftsmen who contributed to making the building the architectural jewel that inspired the greatest mystics and men of letters over the centuries. The interior shows the building site as it was before the famous rose windows were added, leaving free access to the scaffolding.
Once “in” the choir of the cathedral, the spectators “see” King St. Louis carrying the Crown of Thorns to the altar. The centuries “pass by,” highlighting the completion of the monument’s frame, known as “the Forest,” and its famous spire, presented by architect Viollet-le-Duc himself. The tour ends by showing the actual construction site of Notre Dame, ravaged by the 2019 blaze, simulating the long-awaited reopening of the cathedral.
“Attention has been paid to the smallest visual and sound details,” stated the project’s creators in their press presentation. “The same goes for the sensations: The visitor has the illusion of physically feeling his journey; when the tour takes him to the heights of the cathedral, for example, the visitor will thus have the impression of feeling the weather or the relief.”
Currently hosted at the Espace Grande Arche de La Défense (near Paris), “Éternelle Notre-Dame” will be offered under the cathedral’s forecourt in the fall of 2022 and is meant to be later presented throughout France, Europe and then in the rest of the world.
“Live this experience with an open heart, curious about the beauty of things and people when they are carried by the enthusiasm of a project that surpasses them, and, more than anything, curious to meet God, who teaches us ‘the measure of our days’ and opens us to eternal joy,” Bishop Eric Aumonier, representative of the Diocese of Paris for the rebuilding of Notre Dame, said for the launch of the show in January 2022, directing his words to future visitors. “You will meet the companions who built the cathedral, the faces of all those who, anonymous for the most part, have worked for centuries to raise our hearts and souls to the splendor of God and the glory of the Mother of Christ; those who, today, are working to restore the cathedral.”
A free exhibition is also part of the experience; it is dedicated to the history and the building site of Notre Dame, with exclusive pictures and elements of the cathedral’s heritage, such as statues, paintings, pieces of goldsmithing and liturgical ornaments.
Supporting Notre Dame’s Rebuilding
“Éternelle Notre-Dame” is the result of two years of work with a technical team of 25 experts. It is to-date the first virtual show of this scope in the world. The project was initiated by telecommunication operator Orange and production company Amaclio following the 2019 fire inside the cathedral — that will remain closed to public until 2024 — as a way of making it somehow “accessible” to public until the rebuilding is completed. It was developed and scripted by the company Emissive and Bruno Sélier, all in partnership with the public establishment in charge of the conservation and restoration of the cathedral and the Diocese of Paris.
And it is in this spirit of support for the reconstruction and enhancement of this important French heritage site that Orange has chosen to donate 30% of the price of each ticket to the public institution for the restoration of the cathedral and to the Fondation Notre-Dame to finance the Notre Dame interior development program, making each visitor a donor to Notre Dame’s rebuilding.
“From this symptomatic drama of our history,” François Nicolas, president of Amaclio Productions, concluded in the press release, “was born an extraordinary initiative carried by renowned French figures to revive, but above all to project, into the 21st century the past and future history of this stone vessel, thus linking the cathedral builders of yesterday to the men of today and tomorrow.”
As Pierre Holley tweeted, “An experience not to be missed under the Arche de la Défense, in Paris! @AmaclioP offers you ‘Eternal Our Lady’ (@eternelleND), a virtual reality tour that immerses you in the exciting history of #NotreDamedeParis! It's absolutely stunning ...”