A look back at the history of Notre Dame

The world watched in horror as flames swallowed up the Notre Dame Cathedral and centuries worth of history along with it last week. Charred, ash-covered skeletons of the monument now lay where it once stood and served as a significant part of France’s identity.

As we mourn the destruction of this treasured relic, let’s take a look back at the history of Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame Cathedral in the morning light. Photo: LIEF LINDING, Pixabay via CC.

What is Notre Dame?

Notre Dame is where the Hunchback lives, right?

Lon Chaney as the Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Photo: SKEEZE, Pixabay via CC.

Well, maybe in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) or in Disney’s adaptation of the classic novel, but in reality it is one of France’s most notable landmarks.

Notre Dame de Paris – ‘Our Lady of Paris’ – is a Medieval Gothic Cathedral located in the middle of the Seine, on a small island called Île de la Cité.

Notre Dame is admired for its size, antiquity and majesty. The Cathedral is home to many esteemed artifacts such as the trio of Rose Windows, which date back to the 13th century,

Notre Dame’s infamous stain-glass windows. Photo: RCBASS (Renee), Pixabay via CC.

the gargoyles perched on top of the Cathedral’s towers, 

One of Notre Dame’s gargoyles watching over Paris. Photo: PEXELS via CC.

the bells of Notre Dame, and various works of art and religious relics.

How old is Notre Dame?

Notre Dame is 856-years-old. For a little perspective – the Eiffel Tower, another well-known French monument, is 132-years-old (a mere baby compared to Notre Dame).

The Cathedral took over 200 years to build with construction beginning in 1163 and ending 1345. Upgrades, such as the reconstruction of the Spire in the 19th Century, have been made to the monument since.

Why is it important and what is its significance to France?

The burning of Notre Dame has devastated people across the world.



Within a few short days many people, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, have pledged to ‘rebuild’ the historical monument.

But why is it so important?

For one, Notre Dame is one of France’s most popular tourist attractions – it’s estimated  30,000 people visit the monument every day.

Notre Dame has lived to see many significant historical events such as the crowning of King Henry VI and the beatification of Joan of Arc, as well as having survived threats of demolition and destruction through World Wars I and II.

It will also forever stand as an important symbol of France’s religious history.

The Notre Dame. Photo: ASHLEY ELENA, Pexels via CC.

While we wait for more details from authorities on what caused the fire, we can only hope that one day Notre Dame will be restored once again.


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