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The History Behind The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame

By Lianna Avanessian

Edited by Kathleen Khorn

The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame is a Gothic French novel written by the poet, Victor Hugo. The book ended up becoming an immense success after its release in 1831. The book led to the creation of many adaptations, with the most successful being the 1996 Disney adaptation and the 1939 movie. The Disney remake of the movie was different from their normal PG-rated animations, since the movie was driven around lust; the plot was centered around the gypsy, Esméralda, whom the protagonist, Quasimodo, and the antagonist, Archedean Claude Frollo, fell for. Esméralda was a heartthrob and captured the heart of every man, and for that, Frollo tortured her to restore his own faith in the church.

For some backstory, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is located in Paris, France, and was created back in 1163 but opened in 1345. It was one of the first noted architectures to contain flying buttresses.

~ The flying buttresses of the Notre-Dame Cathedral ~

Before the publishing of the novel in 1831, the cathedral was known for being the center of executions because of the Huguenots, who were a religious group of French Protestants in 16th and 17th century France. In 1793, during the French Revolution, much of the building was set for more executions. Sculpted heads surround the temple to represent the previous kings of Israel; however, the Revolutionists wanted the statues to represent the kings of France, so all the sculptures are now beheaded. In the 1830s, Notre-Dame was barely surviving. The cathedral by then was 500 years old.

Because of the lack of public interest given by the French, the cathedral needed an immense amount of care. So young Victor Hugo, a French Poet, decided to alert the nation of French architecture. Though the book, Notre-Dame De-Paris, is now known for the beautiful Romani woman, Esméralda, who is a victim of prejudice by the Catholic Church, the book was written with a completely different meaning. Victor Hugo was in love with the cathedral, and because of that, he wrote the book about the importance of architecture and to preserve the ancient building.

Hugo received international fame after the book finally got published. Through writing this novel, Hugo saved Notre-Dame. He notified the people of the historical and architectural phenomenon. Through its rediscovery, Notre-Dame Cathedral began receiving the renovations it needed. That is why the Notre-Dame Cathedral is now the notable tourist attraction we all know and love.

Nonetheless, the cathedral was not the cause of fame for this book. Though it is well-known that the book pursues social justice for marginalized groups, one can thank the multiple adaptations for the death of the original theme. Hugo’s main concern was that the general public would kill the most beautiful form of poetry - architecture. In the end, Victor Hugo’s dream came true; he saved the cathedral and helped a nation preserve its historical architecture.

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