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Notre Dame de Paris (French for "Our Lady of Paris," meaning the church in Paris dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus), often known simply as Notre Dame in English, is a gothic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in Paris, France, with its main entrance to the west. While a major tourist destination, it is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral (archbishop of Paris).
The Notre Dame de Paris stands on the site of Paris' first Christian church, Saint Etienne basilica, which was itself built on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter. Notre-Dame's first version was a "magnificent church" built by Childebert I, the king of the Franks at the time, in 528, and was already the cathedral of the city of Paris in the 10th century. However, in 1160, having become the "parish church of the kings of Europe", Bishop Maurice de Sully deemed the building unworthy of its lofty role, and had it demolished.
Construction began in 1163, during the reign of Louis VII, and opinion differs as to whether Bishop Maurice de Sully or Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone of the cathedral. Construction of the west front, with its distinctive two towers, only began in around 1200, before the nave had been completed. Over the construction period, numerous architects worked on the site, as is evidenced by the differing styles at different heights of the west front and towers. Between 1210 and 1220, the fourth architect oversaw the construction of the level with the rose window, and the great halls beneath the towers. The towers were completed around 1245, and the cathedral was completed around 1345.
During the reign of Louis XIV and Louis XV, at the end of the 17th century, the cathedral underwent major alterations — tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed. During the French Revolution, at the end of the 18th century, many of the cathedral's treasures were destroyed or stolen. The cathedral's great bells avoided being melted down, but the cathedral was used as a warehouse for the storage of food.
A restoration program was initiated in 1845, overseen by architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. The restoration lasted 23 years, and included the construction of a spire.
In 1871, a civil uprising leading to the establishment of the short-lived Paris Commune nearly set fire to the cathedral, and some records suggest that a mount of chairs within the cathedral were set alight.
In 1991, a major program of maintenance and restoration was initiated, which was intended to last 10 years, but is still in progress.