In medieval Paris, a deformed foundling named Quasimodo grows up under the care and tutelage of Dom Claude Frollo, the archdeacon of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Quasimodo is humpbacked, lame, and blind in a drooping eye -- a human gargoyle who keeps to the shadows of the great church as its bellringer. But the tolling bells inflict upon him another handicap: deafness. On the Festival of Fools in the cathedral square, a crowd elects Quasimodo King of Fools, and a wag quips that the hunchback's attributes qualify him to become King of France. During the festival, a Gypsy woman of transcendent beauty, Esmeralda, dances for the crowd. Watching her sultry undulations from a cathedral niche, Frollo falls in lust with her. Quasimodo, too, is captivated by her, but in a childlike, innocent way. Though Frollo is a priest committed to celibacy, he decides he must possess Esmeralda, even at the expense of his immortal soul. But after realizing she is beyond his reach, he promotes her execution for a crime she did not commit. When the noose closes around her neck, Quasimodo swoops down on a rope from the façade of the church and rescues her, then ensconces her in the bell tower. The film concludes when mobs storm the church and Quasimodo defends it, believing the attackers will harm Esmeralda.