- "Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book."
- –Victor Hugo
Notre Dame is a mighty cathedral standing on the "Ile de la Citie," an island in the Seine River in Paris, France. Built on the site of an older church, which was in turn built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter, Notre Dame is a magnificent example of gothic architecture and one of the greatest buildings standing. Construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 and took almost two centuries to complete.
Notre Dame is a massive stone building of square towers, flying buttresses, and tall spires. The exterior is decorated with delicate ribbons of arches and statues of saints and kings. The roofline of the building is festooned with gargoyles. The interior of the cathedral is a long, narrow space with columns lining each side, supporting two beautiful raised galleries. Brilliant stained glass windows shine gently down on the main altar, which contains a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary, the cathedral's patron, holding the body of Jesus.
The cathedral has suffered many periods of neglect over the years. During the French Revolution, many of Notre Dame's treasures were stolen and the building was used as a warehouse. In the early 1800s, the cathedral was in such a state of disrepair that the city planners contemplated tearing it down. In fact, Victor Hugo wrote "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in part to raise awareness of the cathedral's plight. In 1871, during the short-lived Paris Commune, Notre Dame was almost set on fire. Fortunately the cathedral survived it all, and has now been largely restored to its original grandeur.