Notre Dame Cathedral
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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Not the largest cathedral in the world, the Notre-Dame might be the most famous of all cathedrals. The Gothic masterpiece is located on the Île de la Cité, a small island in the heart of the city.

A Religious site

Notre Dame west facade, Paris
Notre dame de Paris, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral

The site of the Notre Dame is the cradle of Paris and has always been the religious center of the city. The Celts had their sacred ground here, the Romans built a temple to worship Jupiter. A Christian basilica was built in the sixth century, and the last religious structure before the Notre-Dame construction started was a Romanesque church.


Bishop Maurice de Sully started the construction in 1163. The Cathedral was to be built in the new Gothic style and had to reflect Paris’s status as the capital of the Kingdom of France. It was the first cathedral built on a monumental scale and became the prototype for future cathedrals in France, like the cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres or Rheims, just to name the most famous.

The Building

Gargoyle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Gallery of Kings, Notre Dame de Paris
Gallery of Kings

It took until 1345 before the cathedral was completed, partly because the design was enlarged during construction. The result is an overwhelming building, 128 meters long (420 ft) with two 69 meter tall towers (226 ft). The spire over the crossing reaches 90 meters (295 ft) and was added in the nineteenth century by Viollet-le-Duc. The Notre-Dame Cathedral has several large rose windows, the northern thirteenth-century window is the most impressive. The massive window has a diameter of 13.1 meters.

The frontal west facade features three wide portals; above the portals is the Gallery of Kings – 28 statues of Judean Kings – and higher up are the famous gargoyles and grotesques. The spectacular eastern flying buttresses at the east side of the building are 15 meters wide.


During the Revolution, many of the cathedral’s sculptures, gargoyles and interior were removed or demolished. Even the gallery of Kings was severely damaged: the revolutionaries thought the statues represented French Kings.

Inside the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century before the Cathedral was fully restored thanks in part to the writer Victor Hugo, who with his book ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’, made the Parisians realize the cathedral was worth restoring. The twenty-year-long restoration was led by a local architect, Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Viollet-le-Duc made drastic, controversial modifications to the building and even added a spire. The cathedral was restored again between 1991 and 2001, this time the historic architecture was carefully preserved.

On March 15, 2019, a catastrophic fire engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral and destroyed the central spire, the centuries-old wooden roof and much of the interior. Restoration started soon after, and it is expected that Viollet-le-Duc’s spire will be rebuilt by the end of 2023. The reopening of the cathedral to visitors is planned for the end of 2024.

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