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Notre Dame Cathedral Fetes 850th Birthday With Renovations

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Notre Dame Cathedral Fetes 850th Birthday With Renovations
Courtney Traub/licensed to About.com Notre Dame Cathedral Fetes 850th Birthday With Renovations
Claytron/Creative Commons

December 15th, 2012

Following on from our recent coverage of the city of light's most impressive churches and cathedrals, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is making headlines as it celebrates its 850th year of existence this week, planning to install a new set of bells to ring in its birthday, a special viewing platform, and substantially renovating its world-famous organ, according to Reuters.

Anniversary celebrations kicked off December 12th and will continue through November 24th, 2013, during which time the already much-coveted cathedral will be swarmed with an estimated 20 million tourists, pilgrims, and other visitors. The usual footfall per year is around 14 million, according to Reuters.

Cathedral officials have raised more than $8 million from private donors to fund its ambitious renovation program this year, which will include fitting a new set of bells. The metal for the bells is currently being poured and will be put on display in February before being fitted on the cathedral's belltower in March 2013. The iconic organ, meanwhile, is also getting some restoration love-- parts of it have not been replaced since the beginning of the 18th century-- and a special walkway is being fitted that will lead visitors to an elevated viewing platform from the "parvis" or square outside the cathedral.

In addition to the renovation efforts, Notre Dame will be hosting a series of concerts and special religious colloquiums throughout the year.

Hundreds of workers strenuously labored for more than 200 years to complete the chef-d'oeuvre of Gothic-style architecture, whose first stones were laid around 1163 on the Ile de la Cité, the historic heart of Paris. In the nineteenth century, the much-neglected cathedral saw a major revival when neo-medievalist architect Viollet le Duc worked to restore much of Notre-Dame, and Victor Hugo popularized it with his portrait of a lonely, hunchbacked bell-ringer named Quasimodo in Notre Dame de Paris (translated in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).

In time for the feting, why not read further to improve your knowledge of this medieval treasure, listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites?

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