By Kelly Wise Valdes

Most people know of the Notre Dame Cathedral from the novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the subsequent popularity gained from the Disney movie of the same name. This is one of so many reasons to visit this famous monument in Paris, which is one of the oldest buildings in the City of Lights that is still standing. The Notre Dame Cathedral is considered the most popular monument in all of France, with the Eiffel Tower coming in second.

Notre Dame de Paris, also known as “Our Lady of Paris” in French, is more than 850 years old. Construction began in 1163, and was completed more than 100 years later in 1272. During this time, many craftsmen including sculptors, carpenters, masons, and glassmakers, worked tirelessly under the supervision of the architects. The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is among the largest and most famous church buildings in the world. The cathedral was among the first buildings to display the now-famous flying buttresses.

Among the various historical artifacts housed in Notre Dame, the cathedral is also known for the many organs that were installed over the years. The Great Organ is the largest organ in France and arguably the most famous organ in the world. The organ dates back to 1401 and although there have been numerous alterations, there are still pipes that date back to the Medieval times. In addition, the cathedral’s bells are some of the most famous in all of Europe. The south tower of Notre Dame houses the Emmanuel Bell that dates to the 15th century and weighs 13 tons.

Notre Dame has experienced many periods of destruction and restoration. Even so, much of the facade and interior remain true to the original design. During the 16th century, both the Huguenots and the French king vandalized and removed many of the contents of the cathedral. Other features on the exterior were removed because they were considered idolatrous, while tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed in the name of modernization. During the French Revolution, the cathedral was converted into a storage warehouse for food. The first attempt at restoration was conducted between 1845 and 1870. Much of the damage from the previous century was repaired, and new additions were constructed.

Notre Dame continues as a functioning Catholic church and the site of many important religious and ceremonial events throughout its long history. There are more than 13 million visitors annually. The cathedral is open every day of the year. Visit www.notredamecathedralparis.com.