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Notre-Dame Cathedral: Facts and a Brief History

Notre-Dame de Paris in English translates to Our Lady of Paris.

It is a medieval Gothic Catholic cathedral on the eastern end of Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. 

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The interior of the cathedral is 427 by 157 feet (130 by 48 meters), and the roof is 115 feet (35 meters) high.

Two gigantic early Gothic towers crown the western side, which is divided into three stories and has its doors adorned with fine early Gothic carvings and surmounted by a row of figures of Old Testament kings. The cathedral was one of the earliest structures built with exterior flying buttresses.

The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of the city of Paris and the French nation. 

Approximately 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris. Aside from its symbolism, some of the biggest attractions to the cathedral are that it houses one of the world’s largest organs as well as its immense church bells. 

The cathedral was renowned for its Lent sermons, founded by the Dominican Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire in the 1830s.

Notre Dame’s construction began in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries.

The French Revolution in the 1790s affected Notre-Dame as it suffered damage and destruction to much of its religious imagery.

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In the 19th century, the cathedral was the site of the coronation of Napoleon I and funerals of many Presidents of the Republic.


The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The cathedral rose to fame once more following the 1931 publication, of Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris, which is better known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

The book was a success, and the momentum led to a major restoration overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

The book has been adapted for film over a dozen times, as well as numerous television and stage adaptations, such as a 1923 silent film with Lon Chaney, a 1939 sound film with Charles Laughton, and a 1996 Disney animated film. 

The film is considered to be one of Disney’s darkest animated films as its narrative explores such mature themes as infanticide, lust, damnation, genocide, and sin.


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The Fire

On the evening of  15 April 2019, the world was notified of the apparent smoke coming from the cathedral. The roof of Notre-Dame caught fire and burned for around 15 hours.

While a mission to put out the fire was underway, the cathedral was severely damaged, enveloping the iconic spire and much of the roof. The flèche and most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the stone vaulted ceiling were destroyed. 

It’s unclear what started the fire, though it could be related to ongoing renovation work.

Stabilizing the structure against possible collapse is expected to continue until the end of 2020, with reconstruction beginning in 2021.

The government of France hopes the reconstruction can be completed by Spring 2024, in time for the opening of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

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