Europe|Notre-Dame Cathedral: Facts and a Brief HistoryImageThe fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame began about 6:30 p.m. Monday.CreditCreditThibault C
Architecture Europe|Notre-Dame Cathedral: Facts and a Brief HistoryImageThe fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame began about 6:30 p.m. Monday.CreditCreditThibault Camus/Associated PressThe 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. Here’s a short history.[Read the latest on the cathedral here, and how the fire spread.]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.ImageThe Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris last year.CreditPhilippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAfter construction had begun, flying buttresses were added to the design of the cathedral. The design is meant to hold the thin, tall, Gothic-style walls up and prevent cracks in them. The flying buttresses are meant to provide support to the structure but also add to the cathedral’s Gothic style.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.VideoThe Cathedral of Notre-Dame, one of the most iconic symbols of beauty and history in Paris, was engulfed in flames on Monday, leading to the collapse of part of its spire.CreditCreditFrancois Guillot/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesIn 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.The cathedral was also home to the crown of thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis, both of which apparently made it safely out of the fire and to Paris City Hall, according to Franck Riester, France’s culture minister. The crown of thorns is believed to be the same that Jesus Christ wore during the crucifixion. It was first housed at the Ste. Chapelle in Ile de la Cité, but then moved to Notre Dame.[Read more about the fate of Christian relics and other artwork inside the cathedral.]The spire of the cathedral that collapsed in the fire on Monday contained relics — teeth, bones or hair — of the patron saints of Paris, St. Denis and St. Geneviève. The relics were placed in the spire by an archbishop to protect the cathedral.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 additional work on the cathedral between 1230 and 1240, according to the book “The Engineering of Medieval Cathedrals.”Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris, and Sandra E. Garcia from New York.