Notre Dame in the film is the scene of hunchbacks like in The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame. And it's the scene of vampire hunters like Van Helsing in the 2004 action gothic horror movie of the same name hunts down evil in its towers. In real life, it was actually the site of a devastating fire in 2019 that gutted the building. It is now under extensive repairs. Notre Dame's full name is Notre Dame de Paris or literally "Our Lady of Paris". This great medieval Catholic cathedral was built over many years and is considered one of the finest works of French Gothic architecture. Its giant bell towers really make it stand out and it is one of the symbols of Paris and France. It is one of the things travelers should include when planning your Paris trip.


The most famous of Frenchmen Emperor Napoleon Bonapart was coronated in this cathedral with the pope present (Napoleon died in exile in St Helena). This has also been the site of numerous French presidential funerals.

History Of The Cathedral

The cathedral's initial construction can be traced back to 1163 and it was mostly completed by the year 1260. That being said it has been modified significantly after that date. Following the French Revolution in 1789, the French Republic disdained the church and embraced reason. Notre Dame was desecrated. During this period much of the religious imagery was damaged or otherwise destroyed, but the building itself was largely unharmed.

  • First Built: 1163
  • Site Of: Napoleon's Coronation

Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) catapulted the cathedral to international fame. People have been touring and marveling at its stunning architectural beauty ever since.

It is famous for its rib vault and the flying buttress. Once you enter you can't help but notice its stunningly colorful rose windows, the abundant sculptural decoration, and its massive historic organ. If you get up into the towers, you will be confronted with just how large the church bells are. Soon after the publication of that novel, Notre Dame received some much-needed restoration work in 1844 and 1864.

Arriving in more modern times. After the Allies drove the Nazis out of Paris, they celebrated the liberation here in 1944. Since then it was extensively cleaned in 1963 of its centuries-long accumulation of soot and grime. More restoration and cleaning works were done between 1991 and 2000. That largely brings us to the fire of 2019 that so shocked the world that with modern fire prevention systems and sensors a national treasure like this could still go up in flames.

Notre Dame Today

Relics Of Notre Dame

Prior to the fire, it would receive around 12 million visitors annually, which made it the most visited building in Paris. The cathedral is home to some of Catholicism's most important relics. These include:

  • The Crown Of Thorns: Believed By Catholics To Be The Crown Of Thorns Used To Mock Jesus On The Cross, It Was Saved From The Fire And Is Now In The Lovre
  • A Sliver Of The True Cross: One Of The Many True Cross Relics In Different Churches Around The Orthodox And Catholic Worlds. This Relic Is From An Olive Tree
  • A Nail From The True Cross: Also Deposited By Louis IX After He Bought All Three From The Latin Emperor Baldwin II

Related: How Paris Is Being Reinvented (And What It Means For Travelers)

The 2019 Fire

Notre Dame was once again undergoing restoration and renovation when it caught light. The fire blazed for about 15 hours before it was eventually extinguished. Much of the building's wooden structure like the spirelet and the roof were destroyed. Currently, the cathedral is being rebuilt and is scheduled to be completed by 2024 in time for Paris to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

  • Scheduled Completion: 2024 Before The Summer Olympics In April Of That Year

The fire broke out in the attic at 18:18 and the smoke detectors sounded the alarm immediately, but unfortunately, the guard was sent to check on the wrong part of the attic. He accordingly reported there was no fire. It wasn't until another quarter of an hour that it was realized a mistake had been made and the guard was informed of the correct place to investigate. By this time the fire was raging and the fire brigade was finally summoned at 18.51 - some 33 minutes after it had begun. By the time the firefighters arrived in less than 10 minutes, it had become impossible to control the fire.

Fortunately, the Great Organ with its 8,000 pipes was saved from the inferno but they did suffer some water damage.

In December 2019, for the first time in around 200 years, Christmas Mass was not hosted in the cathedral.

Status Of Notre Dame

Notre Dame has been the property of the French state since the nationalizations against the Church following the French Revolution in 1789. The Church was then easily the largest real estate owner in France.

Related: 10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Paris Until They Visit

  • Owner: The French State

Following the rise of Napoleon, he attempted to reconcile the Church and the Revolutionaries. The result of this was the Concordat of 1801. This agreement returned the use of Cathedrals and churches to the church but its vast lands were not to be returned - including the cathedrals. Since then the upkeep of the cathedrals in France has been the responsibility of the French government. Today Notre Dame is one of seventy historic churches in France to be designated as the Catholic Church having exclusive religious rights in perpetuity.

In short, from 2024 travelers should definitely check out Notre Dame - it really is one of the most stunning cathedrals in Europe today.

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