Notre Dame Cathedral Facts

Notre-Dame de Paris is a cathedral on the Île de la Cité in Paris dedicated to the Virgin Mary with three pipe organs and immense church bells.

Notre-Dame de Paris is a Gothic cathedral in Paris that reflects the prominent role of the city in the 12th century, and its scars from the French Revolution are reminders of its connection with the monarchy.

Construction on Notre-Dame Cathedral began in 1163 and was largely finished by 1260. Many religious images were damaged or destroyed during the French Revolution.

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Notre Dame Cathedra Facts for Kids

  • The Cathedral of Notre Dame is one of the most recognized symbols of Paris.
  • Approximately 12 million people visit Notre Dame annually.
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral was finished by 1260, after starting in 1163.
  • During the French Revolution, many religious images were destroyed.
  • The construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral took almost 200 years
  • The Cathedral is 857 years old.
  • Henry VI of England was crowned king of France at Notre Dame.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor at Notre Dame.
  • Joan of Arc was beatified at Notre Dame de Paris.
  • On April 15, 2019, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris caught fire, destroying much of the roof and spire.


Notre Dame was built on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter before Christianity arrived in France, and a large early Christian church was built on the site, close to the royal palace.

The last church before Notre Dame was a Romanesque remodeling of Saint-Étienne the building was deemed unfit for the growing population of Paris.

In 1160, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, decided to build a new cathedral, which was to be in the Gothic style.


The construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163. Four phases of construction took place under different bishops.

Beginning in 1177, the choir was completed, and the high altar was dedicated in 1182. The construction of the nave behind the choir began in 1182. The façade was not completed until 1190 when Heraclius of Caesarea called the Third Crusade.

Louis IX deposited a sliver of the Cross, a nail from the Cross, and a Crown of thorns at the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle.

In order to increase the light in the center of the church, the transepts were added to the choir. The roofs were built with simpler four-part rather than six-part rib vaults.

In the mid-13th century, the Cathedral’s transepts were remodeled and topped off with a spectacular rose window, and the rood screen and flying buttresses of the choir were begun by Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy, Jean le Bouteiller, and Raymond du Temple.

The introduction of the flying buttress in the 13th century allowed the construction of a roof to be higher and thinner than before. The buttresses were replaced by larger and stronger ones in the 14th century.

French Revolution and Napoleon

In the aftermath of the French Revolution, Notre-Dame was made public property and was used to store food and other non-religious items, while the treasures of the Cathedral were either destroyed or plundered.

Napoleon Bonaparte restored Notre Dame Cathedral to the Catholic Church, whitewashed the exterior, and decorated the interior in Neoclassical style for his coronation.


It was in such a state of disrepair after the Napoleonic Wars that Paris officials considered tearing it down. It was Victor Hugo’s intention when he wrote Notre-Dame de Paris to raise awareness about Notre-Dame’s destruction.

Antoine Lusson and Adolphe Napoléon Didron have written about how Viollet-le-Duc supervised a large team of craftsmen in meticulously replicating the styles of the 13th century while working on Notre-Dame and the construction of a new sacristy.

21st century

The Requiem Mass of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger was held in Notre-Dame Cathedral on 10 August 2007. The Cathedral’s 850th anniversary was celebrated in 2013 by recasting 19th-century bells into new bronze bells to recreate the original bells’ sound.

2019 fire

A fire broke out at the cathedral on April 15, 2019, destroying the spire and oak beams that supported the lead roof. The fire started in the attic of the cathedral, but the fire brigade was not summoned until after the guard had returned.

At 19:50, the spire of the Cathedral collapsed, bringing down some 750 tonnes of stone and lead. The firefighters had to climb up a narrow stairway, cross to the north tower, and lower hoses to spray water on the fire beneath the bells.

President Emmanuel Macron said 500 firefighters fought the fire. Two police officers and one firefighter were injured.

The Bells 

Notre-Dame de Paris has 10 bells. The largest two are Emmanuel and Marie. The others are Gabriel, Denis, Marcel, Étienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie.

The bishop of Paris blessed and baptized the Cathedral’s bells. The bells were then named after biblical figures, saints, bishops, and others.

Notre Dame’s bells have a straight swinging axis, which produces a clearer tone, but also great horizontal forces, which causes a wooden belfry to absorb the forces.

Bells were often recast or renamed when they broke. The bell Guillaume was renamed three times and recast no less than five times between 1230 and 1770.


Notre Dame was nationalized by the French state but returned to the Catholic Church by a Concordat of 1801 and reaffirmed by law in 1905.