Monday 19 August 2019

More than just a church: How Notre Dame has featured in film and fiction

Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback Of Notre Dame tells the story of Quasimodo and Esmeralda.

Notre Dame Cathedral appears in several films and novels (Francois Mori/AP)
Notre Dame Cathedral appears in several films and novels (Francois Mori/AP)

Ellie Cullen

The historic Parisian landmark of Notre Dame, consumed by fire on Monday night, is not just a place of worship – it has also inspired the stories of best-selling authors and Hollywood filmmakers.

With its stunning Gothic architecture and imposing beauty, it is unsurprising writers have been drawn to the cathedral as the focal point for tales of love and romance.

Perhaps most famous of all is Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, which tells the story of bell ringer Quasimodo and his chance encounter with beautiful gypsy Esmeralda.

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The spire and parts of Notre Dame cathedral on fire (AP Photo/Dominique Bichon)

In it, Hugo describes Notre Dame as “a central mother church . . . It has the head of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something of all”.

The novel went on to become a key text in French literature and is credited with helping to bring about the cathedral’s reconstruction in the middle of the 19th century.

It has been adapted for film several times, including by Disney in 1996.

A fire gutted and destroyed the roof of the Cathedral last night, stunning France and the world, but firefighters said they had saved the shell of the stone structure from collapse.

The Paris landmark is widely loved and recognised at home and abroad, and a regular star of the silver screen.

Disney also features the landmark in its movie Ratatouille, with central character Linguini passing by the cathedral twice, and a glimpse of Notre Dame appears in the 2017 live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast.

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Smoke is seen around the alter inside Notre Dame (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

French romantic comedy film Amelie, released in 2001, uses Notre Dame as the location for the death of the main character’s mother, while the characters of Jerry and Lise in the 1951 film An American In Paris share a romantic dance on the banks of the Seine in the shadow of the cathedral.

The location is a popular spot in films for scenes showing main characters falling in love or taking a romantic stroll.

Notre Dame also appeared in Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated 2011 film Midnight In Paris.

Meanwhile, several painters have been inspired by the beauty of Notre Dame, with the cathedral immortalised in works by Picasso and Matisse.

PA Media

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