The cathedral of Notre Dame rises on the spot where Prudentius, eighth bishop of Paris, built a church in 375, on the site of a pagan temple.
A more magnificent building was begun in 1163, but was not finished untill the beginning of the reign of Saint Louis, whose funeral service was performed here. On the splendid facade, La galerie des Rois surmonts the three portals, that in the center being la Porte du Jugement (the Judgment Door), that on the left the unrivalled Portail de la Vierge (the Virgin portal), that on the right de Sainte Anne or Saint Marcel. The splendid portal of the north transept is also devoted to the history of the Virgin and beyond it is the graceful Porte Rouge, a masterpiece of early fourteenth. Notre Dame’s south facade bears with the date 1257, the name of the only known architect of Note Dame, Jean de Chelles.
On entering the church from the sunlit square, the extreme darkness is at first almost oppressive, then infinitely imposing. The chief light comes from above, from the windows of the clerestory, which,in the choir, are filled with gorgeous stained glass. The five aisles with their many pillars, afford most picturesque cross views. In the choir, Henry VI of England, when only ten years old, was crowned king of France. The whole building, now so bare of historic memorials, was formerly paved with sepulchral stones, and the church was filled with magnificent monuments, which have nearly all perished during the Revolution and the Commune.