The Cathedral of Notre-Dame is beloved by millions around the world. But on April 15, the cathedral caught fire and people worldwide watched with horror and sadness. While the beautiful roof and spire burned, firefighters battled the blaze for nine hours to stop the fire. They saved many important artifacts as well as the cathedral’s main structure, including its famous stained-glass windows and two emblematic towers. Donors have already raised more than $1 billion to rebuild the storied cathedral. Up until the fire, Notre Dame, whose name means Our Lady, attracted about 13 million visitors a year. Construction began on Notre Dame in 1163 and was completed in 1345. It has undergone renovations since then, including a significant overhaul in the mid-1800s after being damaged and neglected during the French Revolution.
The cathedral is part of history. In 1431, Henry VI of England was made king of France inside Notre Dame. Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned emperor there in 1804. The cathedral is also the seat of the archbishop of Paris. But perhaps what makes Notre-Dame so recognized is its architectural style. The cathedral is a classic example of medieval Gothic architecture, which features details such as stone structures, large glass displays and sharply pointed spires. The soaring arches and 115-foot ceiling were breathtaking and humbling for many visitors. Before Notre Dame, churches most often were short, nearly windowless buildings. Notre Dame featured flying buttresses— towers that distribute the weight of the famous roof. Flying buttresses are another key feature of Gothic architecture. These towers allowed the walls to be built higher and beautiful windows to be installed. While it has been damaged by the recent fire, there is no doubt that it will be rebuilt and continue to inspire visitors for generations to come.