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Way before the Christian faith was introduced in France, the site of the Notre Dame already served as a center for adoration and worship. According to the historical narratives about the area, even the Celtic tribes had some sacred groves of trees in that location. After these native groups were evicted from their areas, the Roman Empire took over and through them, a temple that honored their god, Jupiter, was then constructed in the site. As the Christian faith emerged and took over, two churches were then built over the past centuries. Both of which were the in Romanesque style. One of these churches was the Cathedral de Saint-Etienne (St. Stephen), which was constructed in the year 528.

However, because of the fact that the area had problems with regards to the growing population and the lack of residential spaces, the Cathedral de Saint-Etienne was then demolished after more than five hundred years of its existence. According to the local legends, the Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully then sketched some architectural plans for the establishment of a new cathedral. He then passed a decree stating that the new cathedrals would be dedicated for the Virgin Mary. The cathedral that he was referring to is what we now refer to as the Notre Dame, or “Our Lady”.

Despite the anxious planning however, the construction of the place only began three years after he conceived the idea for it. While the establishment of the first building was made in 1163, the whole structure was not completed until 1345. Astonishingly, it took almost two decades to fulfill de Sully’s dream.

Aside from those who have Christian faith, the cathedral is regarded as a prime spot by many architecture enthusiasts. It serves as a classic example of the early Gothic designs and styles. Based on the historical time of architectural structures, the Gothic style definitely dominated many sacred and secular structures during the fourteenth century. Among the most recognized characteristics of a Gothic architecture is its verticality. It is also quite distinguishable because of its stylistic elements such as the Gothic arch (which has the points at the top) and the flying buttress. The latter serves as an external arch that acts as a support for the weight of the building. This allows the Gothic structures to have much taller walls that the other classic architectural styles.

Another thing that makes the Notre Dame de Paris as a notable architectural sight is its set of decorative elements. Primary components of these designs are the gargoyles. The term “gargoyles” refer to the grotesque statues that rest on the niches on the walls of the cathedral. These statues were placed there not only for the sake of art but for the practical function of concealing the drainpipes that redirect water away from the building material of the cathedral walls. In fact, the word “gargoyles” come from a Latin term which means “drain’. Based on the local legends, the said statues resemble half men and half beasts that drive demons away from the place of worship. Aside from the statues however, another feature of the cathedral that is worthy of the utmost attention is the presence of the splendidly colored stained glass windows. The most prized among these windows were the two rose windows that escaped the damages brought about by World War II.

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Article Source: More Than a Place of Worship: The Notre Dame de Paris

 
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