Construction and restoration. A quintessential Gothic cathedral, building started in 1163 and lasted over 170 years. Until the building of Amiens Cathedral in the 13th century, it was the largest religious building in the West. Between 1847 and 1864, Lassus and Viollet-le-Duc restored part of the sculpted decorations, and even reconstructed parts basing their work on old documents and works in the Cathedrals of Chartres, Reims and Amiens. It was during this restoration that Viollet-le-Duc was inspired to create the 56 chimera that adorn the tower gallery today.
The belfry houses the biggest bell of Notre-Dame, Emmanuel, the bourdon or tenor bell, weighing 13 tons, which visitors can see before entering the panoramic terrace that affords a 360-degree view over Paris.
A Gothic masterpiece listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the cathedral became the stuff of legend thanks to Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, published in 1831.