Building of the Notre Dame was started by Bishop Maurice de Sully in 1163. The Cathedral was constructed in the new gothic style and was designed to reflect Paris's status as the capital of France. It was the first cathedral built on such a monumental scale and became the prototype for future French cathedrals.
The cathedral was finally completed in about 1345. During its construction the plans were radically altered resulting in a much larger building than that originally planed. The result is an incredibly impressive building, measuring 130 metres long with two 69 meter high towers. The spire was added in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc, and reaches a height of 90 metres.
The Notre Dame has several large rose windows, the northern 13th century window is the most impressive. It is 21 meters high. The spectacular eastern buttresses are 15m wide. The west side features three wide portals, the gallery of Kings, and the famous gargoyles.
Work begun on the nave and was completed in about 1208, this was followed by the west front and towers. A series of chapels were added to the nave during this period, Transept crossings were built in 1250 to 67 by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil, and the apse during the period 1296 to 1330. The six part vaulting ribs and the thin elements articulating the walls are typically Early Gothic. These modifications radically transformed the appearance of the interior. The small clerestory windows typical of the Early Gothic style were enlarged downward and filled with High Gothic tracery. The enlargement caused the removal of the unusual triforium.
The Notre Dame has had an eventful history over the centuries. It was here that Napoleon, wishing to emphasize his supremacy over both state and church, crowned himself emperor, and then crowned his wife Josephine as his empress.
Originally the interior had the four-story elevation common to many Early Gothic churches, and the triforium had large round openings instead of the normal arcades During the Revolution, many of the cathedral's sculptures, gargoyles, and much of the interior was removed or demolished. Even the gallery of Kings was severely damaged. It wasn't until the 19th century that the Cathedral was fully restored by a Parisian architect, Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Further restoration work was carried out between 1991 and 2001.