Mysterious lead coffin unearthed from Notre Dame Cathedral during post-fire repair

Mysterious lead coffin unearthed from Notre Dame Cathedral during post-fire repair
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019 in Paris, France (Photo by Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)

A mysteriously ‘preserved human-shaped sarcophagus' has been unearthed by the builders restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris that was devastated by a fire in 2019. Archaeologists maintain that the sealed lead coffin that contained the sarcophagus could have been made for a person of some importance a century after the cathedral’s construction in the 1200s.
The sarcophagus is assumed to be some 600 years old but exactly who was buried deep under France’s most significant cathedral remains unknown for now. A team of researchers is working day and night to understand more about the “completely preserved” sarcophagus that is made of lead before the re-building work of the Cathedral resumes.



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The research team also used a tiny endoscopic camera to peek inside the coffin that appears to have been layered over the years by the weight of the earth above. Chief archaeologist Christophe Besnier revealed that they have managed to figure out there were “pieces of fabric, hair and a pillow of leaves on top of the head” which is “a well known phenomenon when religious leaders were buried".
“The fact that these plant elements [are] still inside mean the body is in a very good state of conservation," Besnier added. Since Notre Dame has traditionally been a place of burial for the archbishops, bishops, and members of the nobility, it is almost certain that the newly-discovered sarcophagus belongs to a person of significance but it is yet to be identified.
The French Ministry of Culture has described the discovery of the coffin as a find of “remarkable scientific quality”. When the coffin was originally built, Notre Dame didn’t have a crypt to lay the bodies. So, bodies were buried under the floor or inside miniature tombs at the ground level. A funeral crypt was made in the year 1711 but no one has been interred there since the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger back in 2007.

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