Notre Dame de Paris, one of the world’s most famous Catholic cathedrals, also sits on one of the world’s most famous French cities, Paris. With a name that means “Our Lady of Paris”, it is the center of the Catholic Archdiocese of Paris currently headed by Andre Vingt-Trois.
One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture with its stained glass and magnificent sculptures, the construction of the cathedral started in the mid-12th century and ended almost a century after. By the order of Bishop Maurice de Sully, the Notre Dame de Paris was built to replace the more modest fourth-century Saint-Etiennes, which was deemed too small for the Parisian church’s growing role as the “Parisian church of the kings of Europe.”
In 1182, the area of the cathedral called the choir, which is usually located in the western part of the chancel between the nave and the sanctuary housing the altar, and the apse, or a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome, was completed. Sadly, the Bishop de Sully died before the western façade was completed in 1225. The construction of the cathedral continued under the watch of Bishop de Sully’s successor, Eudes de Sully. The latter died shortly before the nave, or the central approach to the high altar vault was completed in 1208. On 1250, the Western towers and the north rose window were completed.
For the next twenty years, the transepts were remodeled in the Rayonnant style, which were focused mainly on two dimensional surfaces and the repetition of decorative motifs in different scales. This next phase in the Notre Dame de Paris’ construction was made under the hand of Jean de Chelles, a master mason and sculptor. He was succeeded by Pierre de Montreuil, a French architect, who managed to complete the cathedral’s remaining elements in 1345, almost two centuries after work on the new cathedral began.
Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most notable structures in the city of Paris, then and now. It is one of the first buildings in the world to feature a flying buttress, now mostly associated with Gothic church architecture. The purpose of this design element is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards by redirecting them to the ground.
Not only was the cathedral architecturally stunning, it also houses a number of notable items. Among them is an organ with 7,800 pipes—with almost half classified as historical—111 stops, five 56-key manuals and a 32-key pedal board. The cathedral also boasts of five bells, which consists of the 13-ton bourdon bell Emmanuel in the South Tower, and four additional ones in the North Tower. The Emmanuel holds a special place in the history of Paris, since its tolling was the first to announce that the city’s freedom during the World War II was at hand during in the evening of August 24, 1944.
Aside from this joyous event, the Notre Dame de Paris also witnessed many other popular events, such as Heraclius of Caesarea calling for the Third Crusade in 1185, St. Louis putting the Crown of Thorns in the cathedral in 1239, and the crowing of England’s King Henry Vi as King of France on December 16, 1431. It is also in this cathedral where Joan d’Arc’s mother, Isabelle Romee, petitioned a papal delegation to overturn her daughter’s conviction for heresy on the on November 7, 1455.
The cathedral is also the venue of many royal weddings, including that of James V of Scotland and Madeleine of France on the New Year of 1537, that of Mary, Queen of Scots and the Dauphin Francis, Francis II of France, on April 24, 1558, and that of the Protestant Henry IV of France and Margaret of Valois on the cathedral’s parvis on August 18, 1572.