From the Archives: Photos of Notre Dame Cathedral Through the Decades

Parisians gathered — many of them teary-eyed — as they watched firefighters attempt to save Notre Dame Cathedral yesterday.

Begun in 1163 and completed in 1345, Notre Dame is considered to be one of the premier examples of Gothic architecture in the world. More than 13 million visitors come annually to the cathedral, making it the most visited monument in all of Paris. Anyone can attend masses free of charge.

Coronation of Napoleon I, 2 December 1804. Arrival of the Emperor and the Empress Josephine at Notre Dame, Paris. Engraving.History
An engraving depicts the 1804 coronation of Napoleon.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

The building underwent modifications throughout the decades, with a major restoration project take on in the mid-19th century, shortly after the publication of Victor Hugo’s popular 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” The cathedral’s famous spire — which was engulfed in flames on Monday — was added during that project.

Seine River Looking Toward Notre Dame, Paris, France, Silver Albumen Print, Edouard Baldus, 1860'sVARIOUS
A photo of the Seine with Notre Dame in the distance, from the 1860s.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

In 1944, Notre Dame suffered some minor damage during the liberation of Paris. Medieval glass was replaced in some cases with abstract designs.

The building was cleaned up in 1963 in celebration of its 800th birthday, with soot and grime removed. Several years later, Parisians gathered in the streets to watch the 21-year-old tightrope walker Philippe Petit walk between the two towers. He would attempt a similar stunt at the World Trade Center in New York in 1974.

Philippe Petit, a 21-year-old professional tightrope walker, appears as the tiny figure sitting on a tightrope, strung 225 feet above the ground,between the two towers of Notre Dame cathedral, Paris,, during a stunt which lasted several hours, with police unable to bring him downParis Philippe Petit, Paris, France
Philippe Petit walks between the Notre Dame towers in 1971.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Notre Dame sits on the Île de la Cité, a small island banked by the river Seine on its sides. While the building’s iconic towers remain, it was deeply damaged. As Paris looks to rebuild Notre Dame, funding will not be an issue. Hundreds of millions of euros have been pledged toward the cathedral’s restoration, with a 200 million donation from the luxury fashion conglomerate LVMH Group.

This photo provided by the Paris Fire Brigade shows fire fighters heading to the burning Notre Dame cathedral, Monday April 15, 2019. Experts assessed the blackened shell of Paris' iconic Notre Dame Tuesday morning to establish next steps to save what remains after a devastating fire destroyed much of the cathedral that had survived almost 900 years of historyNotre Dame Fire, Paris, France - 15 Apr 2019
Firefighters head to the burning Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
CREDIT: Benoit Moser/Shutterstock

Click through the gallery to see more photos of Notre Dame through the years.

Want more?

Fashion Industry Leaders Share Memories of Notre Dame Cathedral

The Supreme Court’s Latest Case Will Decide Whether ‘Scandalous’ Brand Names Can Be Registered as Trademarks

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content