A Brief History of the Notre Dame Cathedral

On the evening of April 15, 2019, the famed Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire. Sources say that the fire began in the attic, and soon it began to spread along the rooftop. Although the two towers of the building managed to be saved, the main spire caught into flames and collapsed along with the debris. Although several artifacts were salvaged from the burning flames, many Parisians watched in horror as one of the main landmarks of Paris burned to ashes.

Construction for this cathedral began in 1163 under the reign of King Louis VII before finishing in 1345. Many were left heartbroken at the sight of over 800 years of history being burned to the ground.

Let's acknowledge a few times that the Notre Dame Cathedral played a prominent role in history:

1. King Henry VI of England was announced King of France in Notre Dame in 1431. 

King Henry VI was the only English king to also be named the King of France. During his reign he also suffered severe mental breakdowns that took several months to recover.

2. In the 1790s, Notre Dame was desecrated during the French Revolution in which many of its significant artifacts, such as religious statues, were destroyed.


In 1793 it was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, an atheist movement intended to replace the Roman Catholic voice of France.

3. The Notre Dame is also known as the “poor people’s book.” 


The cathedral is decorated with numerous sculptures depicting famous biblical stories. This helped the poor connect with their faith despite being illiterate.

4. Napoleon Bonaparte was made emperor in the cathedral in 1804.


Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader best known for his big role in the French Revolution. Shortly after becoming emperor he was sent into exile after France suffered several military defeats that strained their resources. He rose back into power eventually, but his brief reign is known as the Hundred Days.

5. Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame drew more attention to the cathedral due to its enormous success as a novel and as a Disney film.


Victor Hugo wanted this story to highlight gothic architecture. At the time, gothic elements were being destroyed in favor of more modern buildings. The book goes into the detail about the large stained glass in the cathedral, which was inspired by the fact that the stained glass was replaced by white glass to allow more light to enter into the building.

6. Notre Dame is home to the crown of thorns, which was said to be worn by Jesus Christ himself.

A crown of thorns was placed onto Jesus Christ's head on the day of his crucifixion. It was placed upon his head by his crucifiers to mock his name as "King of the Jews."

7. During the liberation of Paris in the midst of WWII in which Nazi Germany still held the capital, Notre Dame suffered from many bullet holes.


The Liberation of Paris was a major turning point in the German resistance. General Eisenshower was initially ambivalent towards helping the Paris liberation, believing that resources could be used elsewhere, before eventually agreeing to assit this military feat.

8. The bells within Notre Dame are typically rung during major events.


Some of the major events include visits from the Pope, the end of a World War, sorrowful times like a death in the French government or massacres like the 9/11 attacks. The bells are also rung on significant Catholic holidays such as Easter, Ascension, and Christmas.

9. Philippe Petit tightroped between the two towers of the cathedral in 1971.

He secretly set up the cables between the two towers without permission.

10. On April 15, 2019, a major fire broke out causing the collapse of the cathedral’s spire and the loss of some important aspects of history.


As of April 17, 1 billion dollars had been donated to help rebuild this important piece of history.

Although the Notre Dame fire was a tragedy that affected several Parisians, its rich history will definitely not be forgotten. People around the world have come together to acknowledge the important role that the cathedral played in the centuries that it withstood and in the years that it will thrive again.