Notre Dame – meaning “our lady” – is a medieval gothic cathedral in Paris, France. Construction began on the building in the 12th century; however, it was not completed until 300 years later. Because of the length of time it took to complete the cathedral, certain sections of it draw heavily upon styles other than French Gothic, such as Renaissance and Naturalist. Notre Dame was also one of the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress – an arched structure that extends from the upper portion of a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall.
Notre Dame has ten bells, all of which have names – Emmanuel, Marie, Gabriel, Anne Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Étienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie. Emmanuel is the largest and has been in the cathedral since 1681. The nine others have been replaced for various reasons over the years, most recently in January of 2013.
The cathedral has had to be restored on several occasions. During the French Revolution, many of the cathedral’s valuables were stolen or destroyed. Statues portraying biblical kings were mistaken for French kings and beheaded, and the 13th-century spire was torn down. An extensive restoration began in 1845 and lasted for 25 years.
More of the cathedral was damaged during World War II. Several of the stained glass windows were also shattered by stray bullets. After the war ended, the windows were replaced, but the bible scenes that had previously been depicted on the panes were exchanged for geometric patterns.
A new program of maintenance and restoration was started in 1991. This was intended to last for only ten years but has continued long past its original cut-off date. The primary focus has been to clean and restore old statues and sculptures. Also, in 2014, they upgraded much of the lighting.