Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral is a building that has seen centuries of history and is a symbol of France.

Its history is as grand as the spire that collapsed in the blaze.

Devotees attend a Mass at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The roof of the nave has completely collapsed as firefighters attempt to save the walls. Photo / Gett
Devotees attend a Mass at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. The roof of the nave has completely collapsed as firefighters attempt to save the walls. Photo / Gett

Construction of Notre Dame, which was built on the ruins of earlier churches, began in 1163, when Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone. It took about 200 years to build, and wasn't completed until 1345.


Since that time, it has seen the coronations of Henry VI of England in 1431 and of Napoleon in 1804.

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It was vandalised in the 16th century by Huguenots and was used as a food warehouse during the French Revolution.

A religious statue is removed from the spire of Notre Dame cathedral by a crane before restoration work on April 11. Sixteen statues located around the spire were removed. Photo / Getty
A religious statue is removed from the spire of Notre Dame cathedral by a crane before restoration work on April 11. Sixteen statues located around the spire were removed. Photo / Getty
View from the top of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral with the Eiffel Tower in background. Religious statues were removed from the cathedral roof last week to prepare for restoration work. Photo / Getty
View from the top of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral with the Eiffel Tower in background. Religious statues were removed from the cathedral roof last week to prepare for restoration work. Photo / Getty

It served as the backdrop for Victor Hugo's 1831 Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

The book's place in French literature meant that calls for restoration were finally heeded in the middle of the 19th century - much of the current structure dates not to the 12th century, but to the 19th.

View of Paris in the snow from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on February 6, 2018. The spire has been destroyed in the fire. Photo / Getty
View of Paris in the snow from Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on February 6, 2018. The spire has been destroyed in the fire. Photo / Getty

In 1909, it stood witness to Pope Pius X's beatification of Joan of Arc. And every year, some 12 million tourists pass through, hoping to get a glimpse of the walls that have seen so much.

But while the building itself is considered by many to be a work of art, the cathedral houses irreplaceable works of art, too. Some of it - reportedly including 19th century statues at the spire's base - was taken out recently for restoration. Some was not.

In the cathedral, there are statues: At the Mausoleum of Claude-Henry d'Harcourt, the lieutenant-general of the king's armies who died at age 65 is captured eternally in a white marble sculpture from 1776. In the sanctuary, there's a statue of Madonna and Child - one of 37 representations of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral - that dates back to the 14th century (though it was only moved to the Cathedral in 1818).

A religious statue is removed from the spire of Notre Dame cathedral by a crane before restoration work last week. The spire collapsed in the fire. Photo / Getty
A religious statue is removed from the spire of Notre Dame cathedral by a crane before restoration work last week. The spire collapsed in the fire. Photo / Getty
The religious statues that wree perched atop Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral were removed only last week for restoration work. Photo / AP
The religious statues that wree perched atop Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral were removed only last week for restoration work. Photo / AP

There are the paintings, like the 1648 portrait of St. Thomas Aquinas at the fountain of wisdom, and the divine Visitation from 1716.

And then there is - of course, famously, unforgettably - the stained glass. The famous South Rose window, offered by King St Louis, was created in 1260. The cathedral's website boasts that its three rose windows "constitute one of the great masterpieces of Christianity."

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