The Cathedrale Notre Dame is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Paris and a spectacular feat of French Gothic architecture. Dating from the medieval period (it was opened in 1345, following a lengthy construction period), it is renowned worldwide for its grandness, its beautiful sculptures and magnificent stained glass windows.
Construction on the cathedral began almost two centuries before it opened, in 1163. It was envisioned as a glorious new cathedral for the city, following the destruction of the previous cathedral of Saint-Etienne. Houses were demolished and roads were built. The eastern end with its High Altar was built, and the altar consecrated. The great halls were built in the early 13th century. The cathedral then underwent some changes in design, resulting in the addition of the gabled portals to the north and south transepts.
Since its construction, the cathedral has had a tumultuous history, with damage caused by rioting Huguenots in the 16th century, plundering and vandalism during the French Revolution in 1793, and damage sustained to stained glass windows from bullets during World War II. Recent restorations have seen repairs to statues and other features of the cathedral.
Other special features of the Notre Dame include the magnificent organ, complete with 7374 pipes and dating from the 18th century, and the great bourdon bell in the South Tower, which dates from 1681. Visitors can climb the 387 steps to the bell, along the way observing the famous gargoyles and at the top enjoying sweeping panoramic views across the city.