Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai, Belgium

Notre Dame (Tournai)

Tournai Cathedral.

Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Tournai ) is a cathedral dedicated to Our Lady in the Belgian city of Tournai. It is the bishop’s residence (Catholic Bishopric of Tournai). The Cathedral of Tournai is among the most beautiful religious buildings in Europe. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

Tournai JPG001.jpg.


The cathedral has 5 towers (one central tower and 4 corner bell towers) and a Gothic style choir. The height of the towers is 83 meters. The height of the building is 58 meters, its length is 134 meters, width 36 meters.


Construction of Notre Dame began in 1110, after a fire destroyed the bishop’s palace and church complex on the site in the middle of the ninth century. By 1191, the main building of the cathedral (nave), its towers, the choir, and the side rooms were built in Romanesque style. In the 13th century, the Romanesque choir was demolished as Bishop Gautier de Marvy planned a complete rebuilding of the cathedral in the Gothic style. New, Gothic choirs were built in 1244-1255, but further rebuilding work on the cathedral was suspended. In 1325 only two more side chapels were created in the Gothic style.

On February 19, 2008, the cathedral was robbed: 13 valuable items of church art were stolen, including 8 bowls, 2 bishop’s rings and 3 crosses. One of the crosses contained a piece of the Cross of Christ, brought from Byzantium in the Middle Ages and kept in the Cathedral of Our Lady since 1205. The total value of the stolen treasures is estimated at 40 million euros.

  • World Heritage in Belgium
  • Romanesque architecture
  • Cathedrals of Belgium

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Notre Dame (Tournai)

Notre Dame in Tournai

One of the largest cathedrals in Europe, rich in history and still in excellent condition, Notre Dame in Tournai is a Belgian treasure, its pride and treasure. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai, Belgium is over 800 years old. It was built in parts and construction took centuries.

The history of the monument begins in 1110, when it was decided to build a Cathedral of Our Lady instead of the bishop’s palace and the church complex destroyed by fire. By the end of the XII century they had built the main building, erected a tower, a choir and side aisles. All these constructions were carried out in the Romanesque style, but after a few decades, in the XIII century, the Gothic style was used, and part of the former buildings were destroyed and new ones were built. Work on the rebuilding of the building was carried out slowly, sometimes with long interruptions, and the monument of architecture was completely ready only at the end of the XVI century.

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What is interesting about the cathedral?

Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai is the residence of the Catholic bishopric, and since 2000 it is on the list of monuments protected by the world organization UNESCO. The building of the cathedral amazes with its extraordinary beauty, grandeur and thoughtfulness of details. The architectural appearance of the monument includes features of Romanesque and Gothic styles.

The Gothic portico on the western facade of Notre Dame de Tournais is the most striking feature. The lower part of the facade is decorated with sculptures made at different times (XIV, XVI and XVII centuries), on which you can see the saints of God or scenes of Old Testament history. A little higher look at the window-rose, a triangular pediment and two round side towers.

The cathedral has 5 towers, one of which is central and the other 4 are bell towers and are located in the corners. The central tower has a square shape and is topped by an octagonal pyramidal roof. The height of all towers is about the same and reaches 83 meters, while the building is 58 meters high and 36 meters wide. Its length is 134 meters, which is similar to the length of Notre Dame de Paris.

The interior decoration of one of the most beautiful cathedrals of Belgium is amazing. The four nave and transept were built in the 12th century according to all the rules of Romanesque architecture. Tourists’ attention is attracted by the diverse capitals with images of Ancient Egyptian gods, Frankish queen with a sword in her hands and human heads in hubcaps. Some of the capitals still contain remnants of gilding and multicolored painting.

The distinctive feature of this architectural monument is the Gothic three-level choir, which is separated by an ambo from the rest, executed in Romanesque style. The pulpit itself is decorated with twelve bas-reliefs with scenes of Christ’s Passion and scenes from the Old Testament.

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The treasury of the cathedral amazes with its luxury and magnificence. There are masterpieces of painting, installed reliquaries and shrines, dated XIII century, in which relics are stored. For example, in one of the chapels there is a shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, according to local legend, saved the city from the plague in the XI century. In St. Luke’s Chapel, Rubens’ painting “Purgatory” and the 16th century Crucifixion attract close attention. Other paintings in the cathedral include works by Dutch and Flemish masters of painting.

A Tourist’s Note

Notre Dame in Tournai can be easily reached on foot from the train station of the city, which is just over 1 km away. The trip will take you only 15 minutes. Trains go to Tournai from many Belgian cities, for example, the way from Brussels is less than an hour away. You can also take the train from Lille and Paris in France. In addition, remember that on domestic routes Tournais can be referred to as Doornijk.

You can also take a plane, bus service, take a cab or rent a car. Note that the nearest airports are in Lille or Brussels, the travel time from Brussels by bus takes about 2 hours, and the right highway for motorists is called N7. If you get to the cathedral by car, use the GPS coordinates at the beginning of the article and you’ll easily find the majestic Notre Dame in Tours.

Working hours: April-October – weekdays the cathedral is open from 9:00 to 18:00, the treasury from 10:00 to 18:00. On weekends and holidays the cathedral is open 9:00-18:00, the break is 12:00-13:00; entrance to the treasury is from 13:00-18:00. November-March – on weekdays the cathedral is open from 9:00 to 17:00, the treasury from 10:00 to 17:00. On weekends and holidays the cathedral is open from 9:00 to 17:00 with a break from 12:00 to 13:00; entrance to the treasury is from 13:00 to 17:00.

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Ticket prices: Admission to the Cathedral is free for all categories of citizens during these visiting hours. The ticket is purchased only in the treasury. Admission for adults is 2,5 €, for group visits 2 €, children under 12 – free of charge.

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