The construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and ended about 200 years later, around 1345. You can see a variety of sculptures, but look especially for the "marginal sculpture." Pay attention to the monstrous and imaginary figures placed at the ends of the rain gutters, figures that symbolize the evil and the questioning and provide a glimpse into the world of the people of the Middle Ages.
After the French Revolution, the beautiful Cathedral was neglected, then in 1831 the building served as a background for the famous work of Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After the publication of Hugo's book, the French began to rehabilitate it. This was also the time when the famous gargoyles were added, who to this day are kneeling on the cathedral and making mocking faces at visitors.
Gargoyles are statues that were very common in Gothic architecture. These statues were usually used as decorative water gutters. They were always placed on the roof of the Gothic buildings, as decorated marshes. Interestingly they were designed as demon-like monsters or dragons, monsters who turn outwardly to frighten passers-by who stand at the foot of the building.
The cathedral is located in Notre Dame Square, on the Ile de la Cité, the island which is the historical starting point from which Paris developed. Geographers refer to the cathedral as the zero point from which distances are measured all over France. You can see the metal plate of the "zero point" in the square in front of the church.
At the center of the plot is none other than the amazing cathedral where you are at these very moments. However, contrary to reality, in the book the building is located in the slums of Paris. The cathedral is the residence of a stern and severe Catholic priest, Claude Frollo, who adopts an abandoned child, whom he calls Quasimodo. Quasimodo is a distorted, deaf hunchback whose duty it will be to ring the church bells.
The novel is about the love story of Quasimodo the hunchback to Esmeralda, a Gypsy dancer. It is an epic story, full of beauty and sadness, that describes human suffering with strength and compassion. After Quasimodo is accused of trying to kidnap Esmeralda, he is tortured in front of all the city's residents. Whoever rescued him would be none other than Esmeralda herself. Priest Frollo, who is also in love with the dancer Esmeralda himself, tries to overcome the torments of his love and jealousy and plots an evil plan that will lead to the tragic development of the novel.
Hugo wrote the book after discovering in the bell tower a Greek inscription meaning "necessary / must" and was curious to know who wrote the inscription. Hugo's goal in writing the book was to present the treasures of the cathedral to the public at large, after the mass destruction of the cathedral during the French Revolution, which he saw as the symbol of power.
Over the years, the original structure of the cathedral was damaged. During the French Revolution, the place was heavily damaged - the heads of the statues at the front and above the gates were "beheaded." All bells were melted down for use during the height of the weapon industry. The building itself was then used as a food storehouse. Kings as well tried to make their mark in the place over the years, adding rooms and renovating corners. Other minor damages were caused to the structure during the various world wars that severely hit it, but the structure retained more or less its original shape and is very similar to the structure that stood here during the Middle Ages.
Saint Denis, by his full name Dionysius, was a Christian saint of the 3rd century CE, who was the first Bishop of Paris. Dionysius was sent by Pope Fabianus to rebuild the Christian community in Paris. He built a church here, on an island on the Seine, and converted many residents to Christianity. But the Roman governor's mother-in-law took a stance against him, and the governor ordered to imprison Dionysius and his two companions, torment them, and decapitate them immediately.
Legend has it that after his head was cut off, Saint Denis lifted it off the ground and began to walk away, carrying his head and preaching to those around him. A few kilometers north of Montmartre (where this event was carried out), he met a Roman Catholic noblewoman, put his head in her hands and collapses. The Basilica of Saint-Denis was built in the place where Dionysius collapsed, and this place became the burial grounds for the kings of France.
In the Notre Dame Cathedral organs have been installed since the building was first built, and today there are three organs - the large organ, the oldest of the cathedral's organs and installed under the window of the western Rosetta. There is the choir organ (a 30 year old organ that was installed in the 19th century), and a mobile organ, whose purpose is to accompany the choir and singers.
The first organ was installed in the 18th century by Cliquot. Some of the original pipes by Cliquot are still being used today, more than 270 years after they were installed for the first time. The organ was renovated and almost completely rebuilt in the 19th century. In the beginning of 1989 another renovation was made that was finalized in 1992.
The big organ in the cathedral has 7,800 pipes, 900 of which are considered historical. There are 109 rows, 5 full rows with 56 keys each, and a pedal keyboard with 32 pedals.
The person who plays the organ in the Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the most lucrative and sought after positions in France.