Notre-Dame Cathedral indeed dates back to the XIIIth century and is one of the masterpieces of Gothic art in Europe. Its stainglasses and the huge interior are really stunning artistic experiences of mystical dimension. Located on the Cité island and surrounded by the Seine river, Notre-Dame Cathedral is a flagship in the Parisian landscape and provides a magnificent view of the city from the top of its towers.
Bishop Maurice de Sully started the construction in 1163. The Cathedral was to be built in the new gothic style and had to reflect Paris's status as the capital of the Kingdom France. It was the first cathedral built on a monumental scale and became the prototype for future cathedrals in Europe, like the cathedrals of Amiens, Chartres or Rheims.
It took until 1345 before the cathedral was completed, partly because the design was enlarged during construction. The result is an overwhelming building, 130m long with two 69 meters tall towers. The spire, which reaches 90m, was added in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc. The Notre-Dame has several large rose windows, the northern XIIIth century window is the most impressive. It is 21 meters high.
Excavations under the parvis have revealed traces of Notre-Dame's history from Gallo-Roman times to the XIXth century. Vestiges of Roman ramparts, rooms heated by hypocaust (an ancient system with underground furnaces and tile flues), medieval cellars, and the foundations of a foundling hospital are displayed, as are several fascinating photographs of the surrounding neighborhood before Baron Haussmann's renovations.
Starting in 1991, a program of general maintenance and restoration was initiated. While work continues, sections of the structure are likely to be shrouded by scaffolds.