Updated: Jan 2, 2020
Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered to be one of the most iconic symbols of Paris, not just because of Victor Hugo’s 1931 novel entitled ‘Notre-Dame,’ a story kept famous with the help of Disney. ‘Notre-Dame,’ the cathedral, has a much more ancient story. In 250 BC, the Celts settled in the area now known as Paris. However, in those days, it was called the city of Lutetia, the origin of the word has been lost, but Lutetia is believed to mean ‘White Place’ or ‘Place of Light’ in Ancient Greek.
The people living there were the ancient Celtic tribe called ‘Parisii,’ or the Parisians. The meaning of this name is known, with ‘Par’ meaning ‘equals,’ and ‘Isii’ meaning the goddess ‘Isis’ (from Greco-Egyptian empire) – thus Parisii means ‘Equals of the Goddess Isis.’ This is similar to the meaning of the name ‘Britain,’ which means ‘People of the Goddess Bridget.’ The Parisii brought their faith and secret rites of the goddess Isis with them to this city they called ‘Place of Light.’
Isis is the most important goddess in Egyptian culture; she, like Mary, represents ‘the Mother.’
Isis represented the moon and bore a child with her brother and husband Osiris, her male equal who represents life and death. She gave birth to a son, Horus, a ‘Sun Deity,’ who was born during the Winter Solstice, much like Christ. Horus was also crucified and resurrected after three days, just as the sun does during the Winter Solstice. As the sun reaches its furthest point to the south and east, it seems to arch around the heavens standing still for three days. Thus, ‘sol’ means sun, and ‘stice’ means to stand still. After three days, the sun is reborn, like Christ and Horus, beginning its path back, north and east, towards the Summer Solstice.
When looking at the geography of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral is on an island situated in the river Seine. A perfect place for holding ceremonies, because rivers were often connected to the Milky Way per the belief –
“as above, so below.”
The gods and goddesses of old were inherently connected to the celestial entities; the starry constellations inspired the forms and stories of all our ancient gods and goddesses, including Isis.
Modern archeological studies of this iconic site speculated the site’s spiritual importance during the reigns of Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC-14 AD) and Emperor Tiberius (14 - 37AD). The Parisians united with Rome after first resisting during Rome’s conquest of Gaul; however, by joining, they received special freemen privileges under the law of Rome. Despite unifying with Rome, Emperor Augustus did not condone the Parisii’s worship of Isis, and Emperor Tiberius called it ‘pornographic.’ During this time, a scandal of sexual cult-like activities occurred, leading to the accused being crucified and their icons thrown into the river and resulting in the strict prohibition of all Greco-Egyptian cults.
Interestingly, Paris’ connections with Isis has been excluded from official history. The reasons why can only be speculated, maybe it was due to Rome’s patriarchal control,
or perhaps the goddess was viewed as too powerful?
There was a period during Emperor Caligula’s rule in 38AD, when Isis was extremely powerful and revered across Roman-occupied Europe. However, during this same time, the revered site became a place of worship for the Roman Gods and later the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1163, during the time of the Knight Templars, the divine feminine nature of the sit was honored. The title ‘Notre-Dame Cathedral’ was officially bestowed upon the site by King Louis VII, where ‘Norte-Dame’ translates to ‘Our Lady.’ Today the meaning refers to Mary Mother of Christ, but traditionally it referenced the sacred feminine and glory of several goddesses, Isis, Mary Magdalene, Bridget, and Ceridwen. The remains of the first shrine to Isis were moved and held in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés until 1514, when the Archbishop of Meaux ordered them destroyed. Around the same time, the site's name was changed to "Parisian church of the kings of Europe," a flip from the matriarch to the catholic patriarchy.
The French Revolution in 1789 saw Notre-Dame shut down and cleared of all its wealth, a fate all clergy buildings in France faced at this time. In 1793, Notre-Dame was rededicated to ‘The Cult of Reason,’ an atheist state created to replace the Catholic Church; it was a faith designed around the devotion to the abstract concept of ‘Reason’ and forbade worshipping God. ‘The Cult of Reason,’ was replaced by ‘The Cult of the Supreme Being’ in 1794, whose founder Maximilien Robespierre quoted Voltaire: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." A short time later, in 1802, the site was rededicated by Napoleon Bonaparte back to a Catholic Cathedral. However, during all this time, the site never lost its spirit and dedication to Isis.
Notre-Dame has remained a pinnacle of the Catholic Church since 1803, with every Christmas Mass being held at the Cathedral until 2019 – the year a devastating fire that severely damaged the Cathedral. The cause of the fire is still clouded by several unanswered questions, including; why did it take nearly an hour for a report to be issued, and how did it start? On a positive note, there is a great push to rebuild Notre-Dame in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. So until then, keep watching this space, as I’m sure OURTOR will have an on-demand tour in Paris, offering a great way to experience Paris and its vibrant history.