The French architect, art historian, and restorer Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was born to a wealthy, educated family in Paris on 27th January 1814. He decided against a course of studies at the "École des Beaux-Arts" in Paris, and instead studied under the architects Jean-Jacques-Marie Huvé (1783–1852) and Archille-François-René Leclère (1785–1853). Between 1831 and 1836, Viollet-le-Duc visited Provence, Normandy and the chateaus of the Loire. In 1834, he began teaching at the "École de Dessin". Between 1836-37, he studied medieval Italian architecture in Rome, Sicily, Naples and Venice.
In 1840, the "Commission des Monuments Historiques", Prosper Mérimée, commissioned Viollet-le-Duc to restore the abbey church Madeleine in Vezelay. The commission, which he undertook with Jean-Baptiste Antoine Lassus (1807–57), was the first of a number of restoration jobs he was given throughout France. Other works included Notre-Dame in Paris (1844–64), Saint Denis near Paris (1846), Amiens Cathedral (1860–68) and Reims Cathedral (1861–73). Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was made "Inspecteur Générale des Monuments Historiques". In 1845, he published the "Annales archéologiques", which included his theories about Gothic architecture. Between 1854 and 1868, he published the ten-volume "Dictionaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siecle". In the two-volume "Entretiens sur l’architecture" (1863–72) Viollet-le-Duc compared 19th century Gothic frame construction and 19th century steel frame construction, emphasising their close relationship. In 1864, he was awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal.
Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc died in Lausanne on 17th September 1879. His restoration work is still the subject of some controversy in the field of monument preservation, because the architect did not restore buildings to their original states, but rather integrated new features instead. In Vézelay, for example, he replaced the original pointed 13th century arches with rounded 12th century arches. For this reason, he is frequently referred to as "Vandalisme restaurateurs".