Paris, 17 December 2014

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. This study, the result of a collaboration between the Laboratoire archéomatériaux et prévision de l'altération1 (CNRS/CEA), the Laboratoire de mesure du carbone 14 (CNRS/CEA/IRD/IRSN/French ministry of Culture and Communication) and the team "Histoire des pouvoirs, savoirs et sociétés" of Université Paris 8, sheds new light on the technical skill and intentions of cathedral builders. It will be published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. This innovative method could improve understanding of medieval buildings in Europe, such as the Sainte-Chapelle, as well as in Asia, such as the temples of Angkor.

To download the press release : Cathédrales


1The Laboratoire archéomatériaux et prévision de l'altération includes, on the Saclay campus, researchers from the Institut de recherche sur les archéomatériaux (CNRS/Université de technologie Belfort-Montbéliard/Université Bordeaux Montaigne/Université d'Orléans), the Service interdisciplinaire sur les systèmes moléculaires et les matériaux (SIS2M, CEA/CNRS) and the division Nanosciences et innovation pour les matériaux, la biomédecine et l'énergie (NIMBE, CEA).
As of January 1st 2015, SIS2M will merge with NIMBE, which will thus become a CNRS/CEA joint laboratory.


Consolidation or initial design? Radiocarbon dating of ancient iron alloys sheds light on the reinforcements of French gothic cathedrals, Stéphanie Leroy, Maxime L'Héritier, Emmanuelle Delqué-Kolic, Jean-Pascal Dumoulin, Christophe Moreau, Philippe Dillmann. Journal of Archaeological Science vol. 53 (January 2015), pp. 190-201. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.10.016


CNRS Researchers l Stéphanie Leroy l T +33 1 69 08 90 67 l
Philippe Dillmann l T +33 1 69 08 14 69 l

CNRS Press officer l Véronique Etienne l T +33 1 44 96 51 37 l


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