Few churchgoers are greeted by something quite this stunning when they enter their sacred spaces. Notre Dame de Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful religious edifices — and one of its most influential. When it was under construction in the 12th century, architects realized the tall and relatively thin stone walls would crumble without additional support. They decided to add an external skeleton, and Notre Dame’s famous flying buttresses were born.
Shored up from the outside, the church’s interior could soar without impediment. Soon, other churches throughout Europe were copying its French Gothic style.
Now, 13 million tourists visit the cathedral each year, making it France’s top attraction. Some climb the 397 steps to the top and see gargoyles, the church’s bell — made famous by Victor Hugo’s story of the hunchback who rang it — and Parisian panoramas along the way. Others come for Mass at Notre Dame, which is still actively used as a place of worship.
Photographer Jonathan Garcia captured this glowing image during a November visit to the City of Light.