Is Notre-Dame on Netflix based on a true story?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 19, 2022 (Last updated: December 16, 2023)
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Is Notre-Dame on Netflix based on a true story?

This article discusses whether Netflix’s Notre-Dame is based on a true story — it may inadvertently contain spoilers for the show.

Netflix’s new miniseries Notre-Dame is based on the book La Nuit De Notre-Dame, written by the Paris Fire Department and Romain Gubert and detailing the real-life efforts the extinguish a fire that engulfed Paris’s iconic medieval Catholic cathedral in 2019. It’s no mystery that the show is based on a recent and real event that affected not just Parisians but the world at large, but to what extent are fact and fiction blended here? How much of what we see on-screen is true? Well, let’s try and figure it out.

Is Notre Dame on Netflix based on a true story?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, Netflix’s Notre-Dame is based on the real fire that broke out in the Parisian Gothic cathedral on April 15, 2019, a blaze presumed to have been caused by an electrical short during renovation work. It made international news because of the building’s age and cultural and religious significance; centuries of history were expected to crumble to ash or, in the best case, be extinguished along with the fire.

In the end, the fires were put out and nobody died, which might be considered a best-case scenario, but the show itself raises the importance of what was lost within the fire. Somehow, despite the damage, the building remained standing, though it was touch and go for a while, and by 2024, thanks to the millions of euros of donations that flooded in after the fire, restorations to the building will be complete. Somehow, Notre Dame continues to survive.

Based on a non-fiction book, the series is obviously accurate in its depiction of these events, at least in a broad sense. It doesn’t imagine some new cause of the fire or a different outcome. It does, however, take a similar approach to that of High Water, also on Netflix, which depicted the famous flooding of Wroclaw, Poland, but told the true story with the aid of fictional characters based on real people.

Here in Notre Dame, real-life figures once again inform fictional creations, and once again these fictional creations have ready-made backstories and relationships that are much more made-for-TV than their real-life equivalents. To some, this will be lamentable, but Notre Dame, like the feature film Notre Dame on Fire directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, also released this year, is not a documentary. Some artistic license is always to be expected.

You can stream Notre-Dame exclusively on Netflix.

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