The Cathedral of Notre Dame, France: Constructed 1163 – 1285

We must remind ourselves that these monumental structures, although they remain intensely alive, are merely the skeleton’s of the cathedrals of medieval times. Compared with what it was when first created, the cathedral, as we see it now, is like a venerable old lady whose noble carriage barely suggests the striking belle she must have been in her youth. We should not only recall the past splendor of the cathedral, most of whose external adornment is now lost, but also attempt to understand what the cathedral was during the progress of its own creation; the role it played at the heart of the city that saw its birth among the people whose stubborn or enthusiastic will alone caused it skyward thrust.

For a video of the cathedral see ;

—Zoe Oldenbourg, ‘With Stone and Faith’

Nineteenth Century Engraving of Notre Dame from Southeast

See  I have selected this particular view of Notre Dame because it demonstrates so well the flying buttresses which allowed for the Gothic height in the cathedral. You will note that they do not give the structure and appearance of additional weight, but, as the name suggests, they give the external structure a sense of flight.

See the above site, also, for the cathedral’s place in history,  its physical surroundings, various views of the cathedral and views from it and writrings of it’s building and use.

Gothic architecture had a magnificent opportunity of development in the construction of the great cathedrals, which, in France, were all built at the end of the Twelfth and beginning of the Thirteenth centuries.

These were civil as well as ecclesiastical buildings; in fact, the distinction between the two provinces was a thing unknown at the time, and is wholly a modern idea, which we never probably would have had except for the differences in religious belief each arose among us at the Reformation. The state is merely the community acting in combination for those purposes in which combined action is more convenient than individual. . . But when religious belief was uniform, as in the Middle Ages, state action included religion. The bishops and abbots were feudal barons, with civil jurisdiction; and, on the other hand, all state action had some religious character and sanction. . . .

—John J. Stevenson, Gothic Architecture; Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1876, at
Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1876

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