The Notre Dame Cathedral is a religious and architectural masterpiece located in the heart of Paris. This massive church is beautiful from the inside out, and countless visitors have traveled to this iconic Paris attraction to photograph its mesmerizing rose windows and flying buttresses!
The history of the Notre Dame Cathedral spans more than 850 years. Throughout this time period, many interesting and surprising facts about the cathedral have come to be. The Notre Dame is a jewel of Gothic art, and one of the most notable monuments in Europe!
Here are the most unique and fascinating Notre Dame facts!
The Notre Dame Cathedral is the most visited monument in Paris. It’s one of the largest religious buildings in the world and took approximately 185 years to complete! The walls of this cathedral are filled with a rich history that continues to be written to this day!
Facts About the Notre Dame Cathedral’s Iconic Elements
Notre Dame bells (Photo credit – bloomberg.com)
A unique history is tied to each piece inside the cathedral! The Notre Dame houses countless artifacts that make this beautiful church stand out among the rest. These elements give the Notre Dame its character, and add to the cathedral’s importance and significance in today’s world!
Here are some interesting facts about Notre Dame’s most iconic elements!
There are 10 bells of Notre Dame and they’re all named after Saints! They are called Marie, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Anne-Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie.
The South tower is home to the Emmanuel bell, which is the largest bell, weighing 13-tons!
The Notre Dame organ is the largest pipe organ in France. It contains almost 8,000 pipes, some of which date back to the 18th-century!
Many of the stained glass windows inside the Notre Dame Cathedral date back from the 13th-century, when the cathedral was constructed! They aren’t just for decoration, they symbolize the “Holy Trinity” and are meant to give a sense of a divine presence in the church.
Gothic architecture is famous for its use of gargoyles and chimeras. However, most of these elements found on the church today aren’t as old as you may think. In fact, none of them date back from the Middle Ages! They were added in the 19th-century, during the restoration of the cathedral that took place from 1844 to 1864.
The Cathedral is home to arguably one of the most important religious artifacts in Christianity: the “Holy Crown of Thorns” worn by Jesus Christ. Although this can’t be undoubtedly proven, some historians suggest that this is the authentic relic Jesus wore on his head when he was tortured. There’s also a piece of the Cross and a nail which are thought to have been used in the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The roof structure of the Notre Dame was commonly nicknamed “the Forest” due to the fact that it’s made entirely out of wood! The wood-timber frame was made of more than 1300 trees and dated back to the 12th-century! Each beam was made from an individual tree. Sadly, this roof structure was consumed in the flames of the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame in April of 2019.
At first glance, the Notre Dame’s two towers appear to be twins, however, if you examine closer you’ll see that the North Tower is actually a bit higher than the South Tower! This is because, as with most elements of the cathedral, they were built over time. The cathedral is made up of a collage of elements and architectural trends, rather than just one person’s vision. The North Tower was completed in 1240, but the South Tower wasn’t complete for another 10-years, in 1250.
Here are some important facts about the history of Notre Dame Cathedral throughout the years.
The cathedral was built between 1160 and 1345 and designed in Gothic style fashion.
The Notre Dame was completed in 1260, a hundred years after building first started. Although some argue it wasn’t technically finished until the flying buttresses were added in 1345.
The Notre Dame Cathedral has hosted many royal weddings and coronations!
Mary, Queen of Scots married her first husband inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1558.
Henry VI, The boy king of England was crowned King of France inside Notre Dame in 1431.
Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France in the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1804.
During World War II, it was feared that German soldiers might destroy elements of the cathedral. Therefore, the famous medieval stained glass windows, which include the three rose windows, were removed and reinstalled after the war had ended!
The liberation of Paris from the Nazi forces took place inside the Notre Dame, in 1944, with the singing of the Magnificat.
Victor Hugo’s novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, was written In 1831. This novel did extremely well in France andbrought an unprecedented fame to the church. It led to a major reconstruction project between 1844 and 1864. During this restoration, the cathedral’s iconic spire was added! Unfortunately, the spire collapsed in the massive fire that engulfed sections of the cathedral in April of 2019.
Notre Dame History Facts During the French Revolution
Photo credit – history.com
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was severely damaged during the French Revolution (1789 – 1799). Many angry French citizens resented the religious authorities of 18th-century France, and sought to ruin any form of iconography that was associated with the French royals!
Here are some facts about the Notre Dame Church during its most turbulent times!
During the French Revolution, the Notre Dame Cathedral was regarded as “a symbol of the power and aggression of church and monarchy”. The church was ransacked and many sculptures and statues were destroyed!
The Notre Dame Cathedral was converted into a storage warehouse for food during certain year of the French Revolution!
Most of the bells from the cathedral were taken down and melted to make cannons for the French Revolution. New bells were not installed in the cathedral until the mid 19th-century.
In 1793, 28 statues of biblical kings on the facade of the cathedral were pulled down with ropes and decapitated by angry mobs. King Louis XVI had been guillotined earlier that year, and any symbolism tied to the monarchy was under attack!
In 1977, the heads of 21 of the 28 statues of the kings that had been decapitated were rediscovered. Today, they’re on display at a nearby museum in Paris, Musée de Cluny, which translates in English to the National Museum of the Middle Ages.
A Few More Notre Dame Paris Facts You Might Not Have Known!
Photo credit – discoverwalks
Celebrated for its Gothic architecture, this momentous masterpiece is one of France’s most powerful religious, architectural and cultural symbols! Many facts about this church are common knowledge, but there are also plenty of lesser known facts about the Cathedral Notre Dame!
Here are some more interesting facts about Notre Dame you might not have known!
Outside, in front of the Notre-Dame is a small circular marker with an eight-pointed bronze star embedded in the cobblestones. It’s engraved with the words Point zéro des routes de France. This circle marks the point from which distances are measured from Paris to other cities in France. It has been there since 1924, but is often overlooked beneath the crowds of congregating tourists.
Although the Notre Dame is commonly known for its Gothic architecture, the building actually has multiple styles, including Naturalism and Renaissance!
The Notre Dame Cathedral was built on the Île de la Cité (City Island) in the very center of Paris!
Around 1710, during an archeological excavation under the choir of the church, workers found ancient ruins that offered proof of the cathedral being built on an ancient city from 52 BC! This area was once a Gallo-Roman city known as Lutetia!
The two bell towers of Notre Dame were the tallest structures in Paris until the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889!
The original Notre Dame Cathedral spire was erected in the 13th-century, but was removed in 1786 because of its vulnerable state.
The term gargoyle comes from the French, gargouille, which means throat or gullet. A gargoyle by definition is a carved or sculpted mythical figure designed with a spout to carry water away from a building, just like drain pipes in modern houses!
The fire that spread throughout the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in April of 2019 destroyed several parts of the church, however, many of the cathedrals most important treasures were spared! Including the Crown of Thorns, many pieces of religious artwork, and the church’s pipe organ. The bell towers and rose windows also remained intact after the fire.
On April 11, 2019, cranes lifted more than a dozen religious statues off the top of the cathedral to be sent to southwestern France for restoration work. The statues made it down just four days before the church burst into flames!
During the Notre Dame fire of 2019, aircraft could not be used to dump water over the top of the building, as doing so could have caused the entire structure to collapse!
The Notre Dame Cathedral remains one of the most important landmarks of Paris, France. This grandiose monument is one of the most beautiful churches in the world and it’s located in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
The walls of the church have continued to stand the test of time and are filled with whispers of France’s most important events. We hope you enjoyed our list of Notre Dame facts, and that they’ve helped you to discover the cathedral’s historical importance and evolution throughout the ages!
If you’re planning a trip to Paris, this is one building you do not want to miss!
Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!