Editor’s Note: Here’s a just-the-facts recitation of why Notre Dame matters, from the Wikipedia entry.
Notre-Dame de Paris, (“Our Lady of Paris”), often referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité, Paris, France. The cathedral is consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, its enormous and colourful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration set it apart from the earlier Romanesque style.
The cathedral was begun in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the ensuing centuries.
In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution; much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. In 1804, the cathedral was the site of the Coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of France, and witnessed the baptism of Henri, Count of Chambord in 1821 and the funerals of several presidents of the Third French Republic.
Popular interest in the cathedral blossomed soon after the publication, in 1831, of Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This led to a major restoration project between 1844 and 1864, when the iconic spire was added.
The liberation of Paris was celebrated within Notre-Dame in 1944 with the singing of the Magnificat. Beginning in 1963, the façade of the cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime. Another cleaning and restoration project was carried out between 1991 and 2000.
The cathedral is one of the most widely recognized symbols of Paris and the French nation. 12 million people visit Notre-Dame annually, making it the most visited monument in Paris.
While undergoing renovation and restoration, the cathedral caught fire on 15 April 2019 and sustained significant damage.