Why is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris so iconic?

There are few buildings more synonymous with Paris than the city's Notre Dame cathedral.

The building has stood at the heart of the French capital since the 12th century, its original foundation stone laid in 1163.

This is not the first time the [**Notre Dame has been destroyed**](http://Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: Iconic building in flames). It was heavy damaged during the French Revolution when it was used as a warehouse with many of the statues destroyed along with the bells which were melted down to make canon balls.

The cathedral is the seat of Paris' archbishop, giving it a similar standing as Canterbury cathedral in Kent.

Renovation work was recently started on the building, aiming to secure its future for hundreds more years. According to reports, the fire started on scaffolding erected as part of the works.

The cathedral stands in the centre of Paris and the heart of French religious life. Credit: PA
  • Why is the building so iconic?

The building earnt fame through appearances on the screen. Children's favourite The Hunchback of Notre Dame brought the building to life, along with some of its most famous residents - albeit fictional. The recreation of Victor Hugo's 1831 romantic gothic novel fixed the building in the memory of millions.

The building's spire, which stood at 90 metres tall, reportedly weighs in at 750 tonnes. The spire is where the fire reportedly began.

The cathedral is known as 'the Forest' because of the many wooden beams that have been used in its construction, including 1,300 oak trees. Each of the beams is made from a different type of tree, many of which were around 300 to 400 years old.

The bells of Notre Dame are among the most famous in Europe. Called Marie, Emmanuel, Gabriel, Anne-Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Etienne, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie.

The largest, known as the bourdon bell Emmanuel, weighs over 13 tonnes.

The iconic front of the building is seen by millions of year. Credit: PA
  • What was happening with the renovation work?

Workers had started on a multi-million Euro project to secure the building's future for generations to come.

According to the cathedral's website, the cost of the works being funded by the French state was set to be around €2 million per year (£1.7 million) for up to ten years. The church has had to find some of its own funds to enable its restoration.

Last week, statues from the building were lifted from the site so they could undergo conservation work.

  • How popular is the Parisian cathedral?

More than 13 million people reportedly visit the cathedral every year. Despite being a major tourist attraction, it still services an important religious role for the residents of France's capital.

The cathedral holds mass service on a regular basis, it has an active choir and aims to encourage younger visitors to take an interest too.

The cathedral has a number of bee hives in its roof, introduced in a bid to improve the building's biodiversity.

Firefighters are now attempting to save the heritage-rich building amid a fire thought to have started during renovation work.