Notre Dame (Our Lady), sitting proudly in the centre of Paris holds so much wonderful history. It was started in 1163 and took almost 200 years to complete. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses and originally the exterior with its collections of figures was brightly coloured with paints. It must have been a spectacular sight, looming over the rest of Paris.
It survived the desecration of the French Revolution (although most of the statues had their heads knocked off) when the revolutionaries thought that they represented the Kings of France (they actually depicted the ancient kings of Judah.) The heads were found in the 1970s during some excavations and you can see them in the Musee Cluny.
After serving as a “Temple of Reason” and a “Temple of the Supreme Being” during revolutionary times it returned to its original function but, progressively hemmed in over the centuries with buildings of every age and description, it fell into disrepair. Just when it got to the point of falling down, Victor Hugo featured it in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
It is incredible to think that the cathedral was right on the point of being sold off for building materials when “The Hunchback” made the Parisians rethink and it was returned to it’s glory (with added gothic excesses) by Violet-le-Duc.
It survived WWII but several windows were shot in by bullets and were lost.
Its history is still being revealed and the discovery of extraordinarily complete remains of the earliest settlements of the Île de la Cité when an underground carpark was being built next to the cathedral is just one example of the ongoing discoveries in this extraordinary place.