Notre Dame De Paris Fire: Inside the Cultural and Historical Significance of the French Cathedral

Hayley Kadrou   |   16 - 04 - 2019

After the cathedral in the French capital was engulfed on April 15th 2019, we look back on why the Notre Dame’s flames shook the world.

When one of the world’s most famous buildings set alight, people all over the world showed both their personal sadness over the loss and stood in solidarity with the French people as they grieved. But why exactly is the building so beloved, and why is it’s burning such a tragedy? Here’s a brief insight into the cultural and historical significance of the landmark.


Striking and Iconic Architecture


You don’t need to be a specialist within the field of architecture to know that the Notre Dame is something of a marvel. The construction for the world-famous cathedral began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII. It took nearly two centuries for it to be finalised, finally being completed in 1345. It’s located on a small island named Île de la Cité which is located on the Seine river. The building – the name of which translates to Our lady of Paris – is one of the most significant examples of French Gothic architecture. The building is famed for its innovative use the rib vault and flying buttress, sizable and colourful windows, sculptural decoration, its 8,000-pipe organ and of course the sheer size and beauty.


Notre-Dame in Paris. CREDIT: Instagram/our_sweet_france

Notre Dame in Paris. CREDIT: Instagram/our_sweet_france


Historical Artifacts and Religious Relics


Of course, such a long-standing place of worship would contain many aged artefacts and religious relics. As of yet, the fate of many items are still not known. On some of the relics, France’s Culture Minister reported to a radio station: “Notre Dame’s treasury, which included, for example, the crown of thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis, is safe in Paris City Hall.” The famous organ is said to be badly affected, while other yet un-named artworks and relics have been destroyed. Many of the stunning stain glass windows dating back to the 1200s were melted in the blaze, but others are thankfully still intact.


Moments in History 


As well as featuring as the backdrop to many scenes in films and books in the French capital– most obviously Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel Notre-Dame de Paris, as adapted to The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Disney for film – many real-life significant events have taken place within the Parisian cathedral. In 1429, it was the scene of a coronation for King Henrey VI as King Of France. The ten-year-old had only been crowned the King Of England two years previous. In the church, weddings of James V of Scotland and Madeleine of Valois took place there in 1537 while Mary, Queen of Scots married Dauphin Francis in the religious grounds in 1558.


The Notre-Dame in Paris was in flames on April 15th, 2019

The Notre-Dame in Paris was in flames on April 15th, 2019


READ: Fashion Industry Billionaires Donates Total of 300 Million Euros to Restore Notre Dame de Paris After Devastating Fire