The Notre Dame Cathedral

Which European landmark was at risk of being demolished, until a certain book by Victor Hugo was published in 1831?

And the answer: Notre Dame Cathedral.    

The French author Victor Hugo considered his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a story about the cathedral itself, and devoted two chapters of the book to describing it. Hugo believed Gothic architecture symbolized the cultural heritage of France and that it should be protected.

Photo credit: public domain. 

Thanks to Victor Hugo, the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral still stands tall today. Centuries of French history sit within its walls, from its original construction in the 12th-14th centuries to the fire which broke out in 2019. It bears scars of the French Revolution, multiple styles reflecting different eras of art, and most of all, spiritual significance as a cultural hub for French culture dating back to the time of Charlemagne.

Interestingly, its disparate eras of existence can be seen from the outside. One of the entrances to the cathedral, the Sainte-Anne portal, is decorated with a scene of the Virgin Mary with child that doesn't Their stiff poses and unnatural features indicate that it is a work which was recycled for a new purpose. This doorway was originally built for another Romanesque church, and later added to Notre Dame's Gothic style.

Even Notre Dame's iconic towers aren't quite as picture perfect as they seem. In fact, the north tower is slightly bigger than the south, as the latter was built later. This reflects the time and effort it took to construct such a magnificent cathedral, as well as the collage of architecture which comprises it.

Learn more about the history and architecture of Notre Dame here.

Question of the Day Mobile App


Learn something new everyday. Get the Question of the Day delivered to your inbox each day!

You've successfully subscribed to Question of the Day
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Question of the Day
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.