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  1. ITV Report

Notre Dame: a focal point of faith and resistance through the ages

The battle for Paris raged in buildings around Notre Dame in 1944. Credit: AP

The iconic Notre Dame cathedral became a focal point in the fight for the liberation of Paris in 1944.

British Movietone footage filmed on the streets of the capital captured the dramatic and intense battles as men hunkered down in buildings overlooking the cathedral.

The commentator describes the Île de la Cité and Notre Dame in particular as the "heart and brain" of the efforts of the FFI - the French Forces of the Interior or French Resistance - to drive the occupying German army out of the capital.

The Resistance uprising against the Germans began on 19 August 1944, just a couple of months after D-Day.

Barricades were erected, trees cut down to block roads and the FFI dug in for a street by street offensive against the Germans.

The fighting went on for five days, until the 9th Armored Company entered the city, sparking the end of the German occupation of Paris.

German general Dietrich von Choltitz formally surrendered on 25 August - despite Hitler's demand that the city be turned to rubble before it fell to the Allies.

French Resistance fighters take aim in the fight for liberation. Credit: AP

The bells of Notre Dame rang out for the first time in years, hailing the end of the German occupation.

Although the battle had been won, German snipers were still reported in and around Notre Dame.

When Gen Charles de Gaulle paraded through the capital on 26 August, he was targeted by snipers as he reached the cathedral.

Construction of Notre Dame began under the reign of Louis VII in 1163 and was not completed for almost another 200 years, ending in 1345.

England's Henry VI was crowned king of France in the cathedral in 1431 and Napoleon Bonaparte's coronation as emperor in 1804 was held inside.

Jacques Louis David's canvas depicting Bonaparte's coronation. Credit: Napoleon.org

The cathedral survived the French revolution and witnessed the beatification of Joan of Arc in May 1920.

A memorial service for US President Franklin D Roosevelt was staged there in April 1945 for GIs serving in France toward the end of the second world war.

Roosevelt had died at the end of March

US service personnel attend a memorial service in Notre Dame for US president Franklin D Roosevelt. Credit: AP

Notre Dame was also to stage a memorial service for France's wartime leader Gen de Gaulle following his death in 1970.

A service for Francois Mitterand, French president between 1981 and 1995, was held at the cathedral.

Crowds gather outside Notre Dame for the memorial service for Gen Charles de Gaulle. Credit: AP

But it wasn't always sombre affairs being staged there. In 1971, daredevil Philippe Petit walked a tightrope between the two bell towers of Notre Dame.

Three years later, the Frenchman staged a similar tightrope stunt between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

Philippe Petit, then aged 21, on a tightrope 225ft up, strung between the two towers of Notre Dame cathedral. Credit: AP

At times of great suffering, the cathedral has been a constant focal point for French people.

During the most recent terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, services were held there, attended by thousands outside.

People gather at Notre Dame for a national service for the victims of the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Credit: AP

But for all its hundreds of years of history and connections with the great and the powerful, it will be the events of Monday evening with which it will now be most closely associated.