Standing in the middle of Paris, you need only to look up to see the glory of Notre Dame Cathedral. This gothic masterpiece has inspired authors, poets, and artists for centuries, and has a history that becomes inextricably tied to the development of Western music.
Construction on Notre Dame Cathedral started in 1163 under the rule of King Louis VII. Coinciding with the Notre Dame School of polyphony and the composers Leonin and Perotin, the first stage of Notre Dame’s construction lasted from 1163 to 1245.
Over the course of the next century, the cathedral would undergo additions and alterations by multiple architects, the end result being a cathedral featuring a combination of Gothic styles.
As a religious landmark for France and an emblem of the monarchy in Paris, the cathedral played host to a number of important royal weddings such as the 1558 ceremony of Mary, Queen of Scots and Francis II of France.
Following the French Revolution, the cathedral was the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation as Emperor of France in 1804.
A controversial restoration project in the 1850’s brought the addition of the spire, which remains a part of the cathedral to the present day.
Perhaps best known in popular culture as the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published in 1831, the cathedral plays host to the immortal literary characters Esmerelda, Claude Frollo, and of course, the hunchback of Notre Dame himself, Quasimodo.
Today, the cathedral is designated a historic monument in the city of Paris, and serves as a major tourist attraction, both for architecture and literary enthusiasts, and the Catholic faithful.