Notre Dame de Paris [wiki] or simply Notre Dame is the quintessential example of Gothic Architecture. Construction of the church started in 1163, when Bishop Maurice de Sully decided to build a cathedral befitting his status as the bishop of Paris. Notre Dame was completed some 200 years later – one of the first European cathedrals to be built on a truly monumental scale.
A particularly striking feature of Notre Dame are its Rose Windows – massive (at the time they were the largest windows in the world) circular stained glass windows that depict scenes from the bible.
Legend has it that when Notre Dame’s bell “Emmanuel” was recast in the 1600s, women threw their gold jewelry into the molten metal to give the bell its unique ring.
At the end of the 18th century, during the French Revolution, the church was ransacked, its treasures plundered and many of the statues of saints were beheaded. Notre Dame was dedicated to the Cult of Reason and then the Cult of the Supreme Being – for a while, it was even used as a barn!
In 1831, Notre Dame was made famous by Victor Hugo, who wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” about Quasimodo, a hunchback bell ringer who fell in love with the Gypsy Esmeralda. The popularity of the book spurred a gothic revival in France and helped the restoration of the cathedral back to its original splendor.