News ID: 251521
Published: 0309 GMT April 16, 2019

Notre-Dame Cathedral: A short history

Notre-Dame Cathedral: A short history

By Karen Zraick and Heather Murphy

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame, where a large fire broke out on Monday evening, is among the most famous landmarks in Paris, drawing about 13 million visitors a year.

The cathedral, whose name means Our Lady, is the seat of the archbishop of Paris.

When was Notre-Dame built?

The cathedral was built on a small island called the Île de la Cité, in the middle of the Seine. Construction began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and was completed in 1345. It is considered a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture.

It was damaged and neglected in the 1790s, during the French Revolution. Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “Notre-Dame of Paris,” published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” informed readers about the building’s decrepit condition.

The book helped spur significant overhauls from 1844 to 1864, when the architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc redid the spire and flying buttresses.

What historical events took place there?

Henry VI of England was made king of France inside Notre-Dame in 1431.

Napoleon Bonaparte, who also sought to save the storied cathedral, was crowned emperor there in 1804.

In 1909, Joan of Arc, who had helped France battle the English and was burned at the stake centuries earlier, was beatified in the cathedral by Pope Pius X.

What was happening when the fire broke out?

The cathedral, where Mass is still offered on Sundays, is currently undergoing extensive renovation. In 2017, The New York Times wrote that the cathedral was in dire need of a makeover. Weather and time had taken a toll on the building. Broken gargoyles were replaced by plastic, limestone crumbled at the touch.

The renovation was expected to cost nearly $180 million.

Has the cathedral burned previously?

Yes. In fact the present edifice replaced an earlier church destroyed by fire. Fire struck yet again in the 13th century, prompting new work on the cathedral between 1230 and 1240, according to the book The Engineering of Medieval Cathedrals.

The above article first appeared in The New York Times.



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