Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
Notre-Dame, the most famous church in Paris, stands on the eastern tip of the Seine island Île de la Cité in the middle of the historical city centre. It is one of the earliest Gothic churches in France and was built between 1163 and 1345. At the west portal there are two towers made of natural stone with a height of 69 meters each. The central wooden tower was 93 metres high until it collapsed in April 2019. The church can accommodate up to 10,000 people.
Construction of the church began in 1163. The choir was still built in the Romanesque style. The further the construction progressed, the more Gothic style elements were used. The entire construction period of almost 200 years can be divided into four construction phases. The choir was completed between 1163 and 1182. The central nave was built from 1182 to 1190. This included the crossing, the transept, parts of the main nave and parts of the side aisles. The rest of the nave and the west façade were built between 1190 and 1225. The two west towers were built between 1225 and 1250. During the rest of the construction period, originally Romanesque elements were converted to the Gothic style.
As early as 1240, it was decided not to erect spires on the west towers. However, in Notre-Dame there were some innovations in church architecture. The flying buttresses constructed around 1180 were a novel invention, but to this day it is not certain whether the flying buttresses of Notre-Dame are really the first worldwide. On the façade of the church there are numerous groups of figures, for example the King’s Gallery with 28 life-size figures, which represent the kings of Judah. On the west façade a gigantic Rosette window can be seen. With a diameter of 12 meters it is the largest Rosette in Europe.
As the most important church in the country, Notre-Dame has often been at the centre of historical events. During the Hundred Years’ War, in 1431, King Henry VI of England was crowned King of France at the age of ten. In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself French Emperor in Notre-Dame. From 1793-1802 the church was desecrated and declared a Temple of Reason, and later even used as a wine depot. In 1944, when the German occupying forces withdrew, the most important buildings in Paris were to be blown up. Not a moment too soon, the Notre-Dame was prevented from also being destroyed.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the most famous churches in the world. It is the setting for numerous films and novels, as, for example, “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” by Victor Hugo. Notre-Dame has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991. In April 2019 there was a devastating fire in the roof timbering of the church, causing the roof and the central tower to collapse. There was an enormous, worldwide willingness to donate. Even after the fire, in Paris the interest of tourists in Notre-Dame remains unbroken.