Notre-Dame de Paris is one the first buildings in the world to be constructed with flying buttresses. Like much of its statuary, the cathedral’s famous gargoyles were also built with practicality in mind, serving as supports and down spouts for rain gutters. Although the cathedral wasn’t finished until 1345, its cornerstone was laid in 1163.
The Notre Dame cathedral’s immense size was made possible by changes to its blueprint to include the flying buttresses, which allowed for the cathedral's high, thin walls and vaulted ceilings. Notre Dame is one of the most elaborate cathedrals ever constructed, engineered not only for a full choir loft but also to house what is now a pipe organ with 7,374 pipes (some 900 of which are classified as historical), 110 real stops, five 56-key manuals and a 32-key pedalboard. The cathedral’s three enormous rose windows date from 1220, 1250 and 1260. The west rose window depicts the zodiac and the Labors of the Months, the north window depicts scenes from the Old Testament, and the south window depicts scenes from the New Testament.
Like its stained glass windows, the cathedral’s statuary is also organized around religious themes and is known for its detail and life-like execution. Much of the original statuary has been damaged or destroyed, first during a Huguenot revolt in 1548 and later during the French Revolution and World War II. Some of the damaged statues have been restored.