Ever since fire ravaged the Notre-Dame cathedral on 15th April 2019, many people have pledged money to rebuild the Paris Landmark. The donations already add up to more than one billion dollars, and this had raised many questions because the supporters of the cathedral had struggled in recent months to raise money to make necessary repairs to the crumbling eight-century-old structure. Despite the tragedy, Notre-Dame is among the few evocative structures in Paris and its turbulent history. It is also one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. This ecclesiastical structure is located in the Ile de la Cite, the birthplace of Paris, and the unique design, exciting history, narrates the story of Christianity through its defining and most critical stages in time.
History of the Cathedral
The construction of the Notre-Dame, which is one of the leading masterpieces of Gothic architecture began on 25 April 1163 with the laying of the cornerstone in the presence of King Louis VII and Pope Alexander III. The Notre-Dame is believed to have been completed in its current form in 1345. However, because of wear and tear the structure is believed to have undergone modifications which changed the original appearance quite a bit. The most significant damage took place in the 1790s during the French revolution when much of its religious imagery was destroyed. The damage also preceded the extensive restoration that took place in the 19th century thereby inaugurating its present appearance. After the damage of Notre-Dame during the revolution, the destruction was so grave that even the complete demolition was considered. In 1804, the cathedral became the stage of the most important coronation in its history; Napoleon Bonaparte who became the emperor of France. In later years, the Cathedral was the venue of the funerals of several Presidents of the French Republic. The interest in the restoration of the Cathedral arose after the publication of the novel ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ by Victor Hugo that underlined the need for preservation of such majestic architecture. This would later be the hallmark of the 1844 and 1864 renovation projects. On April 15, 2019, the roof of Notre-Dame caught fire while undergoing renovation and restoration. The cathedral sustained severe damages after burning for 15 hours including the destruction of the spire and most of the lead-covered wooden roof above the vaulted ceiling.
The Notre-Dame is one of the first Gothic cathedrals. It is 128 meters in length, and 12 meters wide in the nave. The tower, elevated nave, and cruciform plan were all borrowed from the 11th-century Romanesque architecture. A close look at the twin towers reveals that unlike other Gothic structures, the Notre-Dame lacks spires which are integral in any Gothic cathedral. Notre-Dame is also famous for its external statues and gargoyles arranged outside to serve as additional column supports and drainage pipes. As a Gothic structure, it has arched exterior supports known as “flying buttresses.” The supports were not in the original construction of the building but were included when stress fractures began to appear in the thin upper walls as they cracked under the weight of the vault. The Notre Dame stern facade is also decorated with a mass of stone sculpture, especially around the central portal and is flanked by statues of Jesus depicting The Last Judgment.
Note that the fire tragedy that affected Notre-Dame might impact visiting hours because of time spent during reconstruction. However, the best time to visit Notre-Dame is in low season (October-March). During this period, you will have a better chance of avoiding massive crowds and long lines. Visiting at sunset will also afford an awe-inspiring view of the cathedral’s stained glass; notably, the three rose windows. A quick tour of the cathedral begins at the foot of the North Tower and involve climbing a total of 402 steps. You can visit the Notre-Dame in solidarity with France and offer your support for the reconstruction.