The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass serve to contrast it with earlier Romanesque architecture.
As the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Paris, Notre-Dame contains the cathedra of the Archbishop of Paris, currently Cardinal André Vingt-Trois. The cathedral treasury contains a reliquary, which houses some of Catholicism's most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.
In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration in the radical phase of the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845. A project of further restoration and maintenance began in 1991.
Under a 1905 law, Notre-Dame de Paris is among seventy churches in Paris built before that year that are owned by the French State. While the building itself is owned by the state, the Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary, having the exclusive right to use it for religious purpose in perpetuity. The archdiocese is responsible for paying the employees, security, heating and cleaning, and assuring that the cathedral is open free to visitors. The archdiocese does not receive subsidies from the French State.