Reverse Engineering the Monuments of Medieval Paris

Meredith COHEN
(UCLA, Los Angeles, USA)

Keywords: reconstruction, augmented reality, cultural heritage, mapping, architecture

Too much of what is known about Parisian Gothic architecture is based on too few extant monuments; of some fifty-five buildings constructed in Paris in the period from about 1150-1300, only five are extant in fragmented form today. However, ample information stemming from archaeology, graphic, and written documentation allow us to reconstruct a number of the now-lost monuments with varying degrees of accuracy. In this talk, I will discuss my approach to and aims in resurrecting the lost monuments of Gothic Paris through digital reconstruction in a collaborative web-based project I initiated at UCLA entitled Paris Past and Present.
Working within a rapidly expanding area of research, our team has developed methodological strategies to address some of the problematic issues that arise with 3D reconstructions of lost monuments, such as reconciling inconsistencies within the source materials, illustrating true results in contrast to hypotheses, as well as means of public presentation. At the same time, the insights we have made on Gothic architecture in the course of constructing some twelve buildings for Paris Past and Present have been numerous and unexpected. Some of these will be detailed as they relate to our reconstruction of the magnificent thirteenth-century Lady Chapel at Saint Germain des Prés, attributed to the Parisian “doctor lathomorum,” Pierre de Montreuil, in an effort to demonstrate how technology can further academic discourse in ways not previously possible.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
This project incorporates 3D reconstruction and augmented reality to extend our knowledge of Gothic architecture and the Urban Space, by making use of underused archival and archaeological sources.

This significantly broadens our data for the understanding of Gothic architecture and urban space.


  1. Meredith Cohen, “Louis’ later patronage in Paris,” in The Sainte-Chapelle and the Construction of Sacral Monarchy: Royal Architecture in Thirteenth-Century Paris (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
  2. Christ, Y., Églises parisiennes actuelles et disparues (Paris: Éditions Tel, 1947)