Towers and the spire
Towers on west façade (1220–1250).
The 19th-century spire was destroyed in the 2019 fire.
The rooster reliquary atop the spire. It was found intact in the rubble after the 2019 fire.
The spire from above, in 2013
The two towers are 69 meters (226 ft) high, and were the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. The towers were the last major element of the cathedral to be constructed. The south tower was built first, between 1220 and 1240, and the north tower between 1235 and 1250. The newer north tower is slightly larger, as can be seen when they are viewed from directly in front of the church. The contrefort or buttress of the north tower is also larger.
The north tower was accessible to visitors by a stairway, whose entrance was on the north side of the tower. The stairway has 387 steps, and has a stop at the Gothic hall at the level of the rose window, where visitors could look over the parvis and see a collection of paintings and sculpture from earlier periods of the cathedral's history.
The ten bells of the cathedral are located in the south tower. (see Bells below)
A lead-roofed water reservoir between the two towers—behind the colonnade and the gallery and before the nave and the pignon—provides water for firefighting.
The cathedral's flèche (or spire), which was destroyed in the April 2019 fire, was located over the transept. The original spire was constructed in the 13th century, probably between 1220 and 1230. It was battered, weakened and bent by the wind over five centuries, and finally was removed in 1786. During the 19th-century restoration, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc decided to recreate it, making a new version of oak covered with lead. The entire spire weighed 750 tons.
Following Viollet-le-Duc's plans, the spire was surrounded by copper statues of the twelve Apostles—a group of three at each point of the compass. In front of each group is an animal symbolising one of the four evangelists: a winged ox for Saint Luke, a lion for Saint Mark, an eagle for Saint John and an angel for Saint Matthew. Just days prior to the fire, the statues were removed for restoration. While in place, they had faced outwards towards Paris, except one: the statue of Saint Thomas, the patron saint of architects, faced the spire, and had the features of Viollet-le-Duc.
The rooster weathervane atop the spire contained three relics: a tiny piece from the Crown of Thorns in the cathedral treasury, and relics of Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve, patron saints of Paris. They were placed there in 1935 by Archbishop Jean Verdier, to protect the congregation from lightning or other harm. The rooster with relics intact was recovered in the rubble shortly after the 2019 fire.