Notre Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris or Notre-Dame de Paris is the most visited Catholic church in the world and one of the most famous sights in Europe. Its architecture has become a model of Gothic style. The sanctuary houses one of the most important relics of the Christian church, the Wreath of Thorns. Also inside you will notice a collection of historical paintings and sculptures. From the outside you will be greeted by a beautiful facade with an original design of the entrance.
Entrance fee: free of charge.
History on the dates
1163 – The first stone was laid in the presence of Pope Alexander III.
By 1182 the choir and high altar were built and illuminated.
By 1250 the main architectural works were finished.
End of the XIII – beginning of the XIV centuries – refinement of the external appearance: crosses, stone fence, etc. are installed.
XVII – XVIII centuries – the central portal was rebuilt.
During the revolution almost all the statues were destroyed, the spire was removed.
XIX century – there was a large restoration.
March 31, 1864 – the temple was re-consecrated.
1965-1972 – archaeological excavations in the area.
2013 – for the 850th anniversary 9 new bells were cast and a number of religious initiatives, for example, a special “pilgrim’s route” was issued.
Throughout its existence, coronations of kings, baptisms of nobles and marriages of royal families have been held here.
The cathedral was one of the first in the Gothic style in the world, and remains the best preserved and most majestic. At the same time in it notes notes of Romanesque influence. At the base is a six-part vault with ribs (“ribs” of frame vault). There are several portals, which were completed in different years. In front of the entrance is the Cathedral Square. There is “kilometer zero”.
The central facade stands on four pillars with two towers on each side. Despite its impressive size it looks harmonious and elegant. The centrepiece is the rose window from 1225. There are three statues in front of it: the Virgin Mary, Adam and Eve. Above all the portals a gallery of 28 figures of Old Testament kings is made. The arches are decorated with carved stone patterns.
On the main facade of the building there are three entrances with lancet portals. On them sculptural panels with subjects from the Gospel are created. On the left is the portal of Our Lady: at the beginning is shown Mary’s death, her entry into paradise and her coronation as Queen of Heaven. In the center is the Last Judgment. The dead rising from their graves, the angels with trumpets, the Archangel Michael weighing the souls, and in the middle is Christ seated on his throne. To the right is St. Anne. This is the first of the installed compositions. On the throne sits the Madonna and Child, to whom the bishop and the King of France have come.
The roof and the spire
The most famous decoration of the roof are the statues of gargoyles and chimeras, which have appeared in many works of art. There are also four groups of bronze figures of apostles with symbols from the Gospels. They all point toward the spire, which consists of two stories with beautiful decorations. The roof itself is made of lead plates weighing over 210 tons.
The interior decoration
When you enter the structure, you feel its scale and involvement in history. There are many works of art, but at the same time, it is not a museum, but a functioning temple. In plan, the intersecting naves form a cross. There are no frescoes or paintings on the walls. There are chandeliers, benches and a tiled floor.
Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows occupy a special place in the interior decoration. Colored images shimmer beautifully from the sunlight on the walls and floor. The main fragments are inserted in rose windows, and represent one of the masterpieces of Christian art. In the middle is a New Testament story with 84 panels in a circle, and underneath are more frames with 16 prophets.
The sculptures have great religious significance. They all depict saints or biblical moments. They are made of white and gray marble. They have different sizes and are set in different years. The most famous of the statues inside are: Our Lady of Paris, the composition over the mausoleum of the Count of Harcourt, Saint Teresa of Lisieux and Saint Anthony.
The treasury contains one of the main Christian relics, the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ. At first it was in Jerusalem, then it was bought by the French king from the Byzantine emperor, and for several years it lay in a specially built chapel. After the revolution, it was brought here.
Every great Catholic church has an organ, and Notre-Dame de Paris has three. The Great, or Grand, organ dates back to 1402. It was created specifically for this building by French masters. On it played more than 50 organists. Today you can listen to it during Sunday services. The organ of the Choir is made to accompany the singing. It can be heard every day during prayers. The third instrument is mobile, and often assists the main melody.
Several large-scale 17th- to 18th-century paintings hang in the rooms, recounting important events for Catholicism. The large “Mays” are a number of paintings, about 50 pieces, that are displayed in the chapels of the nave, among them: “The Crucifixion of St. Peter,” “The Descent of the Holy Spirit,” “The Centenary of Cornelius at the Foot of the Apostle Peter,” etc. They were painted specifically to order for the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. There are also interesting works “St. Thomas Aquinas” and “The Visitation.”
The place is visited by more than 13 million people every year.
Since 2013, a beehive has been located on the roof of the landmark. The church has always had a positive attitude toward bees, there is even their patron saint, Saint Ambrose. Therefore, the initiative of the famous Parisian beekeeper was supported. Notre Dame de Paris has been featured dozens of times in movies such as: “Van Helsing”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Amelie”, etc.
Thanks to the novel by Victor Hugo, “Notre Dame de Paris”, the building became famous and it was able to be preserved during the war and political actions.
Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris, or Notre Dame de Paris, is perhaps the most recognizable example of Gothic architecture. Its appearance is as familiar to almost everyone as its name, because the cathedral is immortalized in many works of art. Along with the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the main attractions of Paris, which almost no tourist can afford to miss. Each year, the Cathedral is visited by approximately 13.5 million (!) people. Notre Dame attracts travelers not only with its unique architecture – the cathedral is shrouded in a mystical halo, full of mysteries, legends and amazing stories.
Notre Dame through the ages: the history of the famous cathedral
Sanctuaries have been built on the site of the present day Notre Dame since antiquity. Back in Roman times there was a temple to Jupiter. Then the first Christian basilica in Paris appeared here, built on the foundations of a Roman temple. And in 1163, construction began on the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral that we know.
For centuries Notre Dame has played a crucial role in the life of Paris and all of France. French kings were crowned and crowned here. It was the place where prominent sons of France were buried.
But during the Great French Revolution, this rich history was almost a verdict on the cathedral: the building miraculously survived! The Jacobins wanted to demolish the “stronghold of obscurantism”, but it was the Parisians themselves who defended their main shrine, collecting a huge ransom for it. The building was preserved, but it was severely “mocked”: in particular, Notre Dame lost its famous spire placed on the roof, almost all of its bells were melted down for cannons, many sculptures were destroyed. The sculptures of the Jewish kings, placed above the three portals of the facade, were particularly affected: the statues were beheaded. And the cathedral itself was declared a Temple of Reason.
Since 1802, services began to be held in Notre Dame again, and three years later it was here that the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine took place. However, despite the significance of the cathedral, Notre Dame was in extremely dilapidated condition and in desperate need of restoration. Who knows whether the building would have survived to this day if not for… Victor Hugo and his famous novel Notre Dame de Paris!
After the publication of the book in 1830, Parisians remembered their architectural and historical treasure and finally thought about its preservation and restoration. By that time, the building was almost seven centuries old! In XIX century under the able guidance of architect Duke the first serious restoration of the cathedral was carried out. Then Notre Dame acquired the famous gallery of chimeras, which today so impresses visitors to Paris.
And in 2013, Paris celebrated the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame. As a gift, the cathedral received new bells and a restored organ.
Notre-Dame de Paris holds two Christian relics: one of the fragments of the Crown of Thorns, which according to legend was placed on the head of Jesus Christ, and one of the nails used by the Roman legionaries to nail Christ to the cross.
“The symphony of stone: the architecture of Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s majestic and monumental building is an authentic masterpiece of early Gothic architecture. Its lancet cross vaults, fine stained glass windows, rose windows and sculpted entry portals are particularly striking. The architectural harmony of the building is admirable, as is the sense of history that pervades its entire appearance. It is not for nothing that Victor Hugo called Notre Dame de Paris “a symphony of stone”.
Notre-Dame de Paris from outside
The greatest attention is attracted by the main, western facade of the cathedral – it is one of the most recognizable architectural images. Visually, the façade is divided into three parts, both vertically and horizontally. In the lower part are three portals (monumental entrances), each with its own name: the portal of the Last Judgment (central), the portal of Our Lady (left) and the portal of St. Anne (right). The names correspond to the subjects depicted in the remarkably beautiful sculptural compositions on the vaults of the portals.
In the center of the portal of the Last Judgment is the figure of Christ. Below him are the dead rising from their graves, awakened by the call of angelic trumpets. On Christ’s left hand are the sinners going to hell. On the right are the righteous, going to Paradise.
Above the portals is the so-called “Gallery of the Kings”, represented by 28 statues of Jewish rulers. It suffered most during the revolution and all the ruined statues were replaced by new ones during the great restoration of the 19th century.
Curiously enough, as early as 1977, during the construction work under one of the Parisian houses, the original sculptures, lost during the revolution, were found. Subsequently, it turned out that the future owner of the house in the midst of revolutionary unrest bought several statues, stating that he needed them for the foundation. In reality, the man kept the statues under his house – apparently “until better times.” Today, the statues are housed in the Clooney Museum.
From the west façade, you can also see the two bell towers soaring in the air. By the way, although at first glance they seem symmetrical, a closer look reveals a slight, subtle asymmetry: the left tower is somewhat more massive than the right.
If you have a chance, walk around the perimeter of the cathedral to see also the side facades, their impressive entrance portals with masterly reliefs, as well as examine the eastern apse of the temple (altar ledge) with amazingly beautiful carved vaulted arches.
The first thing that cathedral catches the eye inside is the unusual lighting. Light enters the building through numerous colorful stained-glass windows, creating a bizarre play of light on the arches of the central nave. Most of the light falls on the altar. This elaborate lighting system creates a special mystical atmosphere.
Instead of massive walls inside Notre Dame, there are vaulted arches and columns. This arrangement of space was a real discovery of the Gothic style and allowed the cathedral to be decorated with many colored stained-glass windows.
The central nave of Notre Dame seems enormous. Scale of the cathedral is associated with its original purpose – in fact, according to the idea of the founders, it had to contain the entire population of Paris! And Notre Dame really coped very well with this task at the time when the number of inhabitants of the French capital did not exceed 10 thousand people. And all this population lived on the island of Cité, where the cathedral is located.
Learn a lot about the history of the island of Cité, where Paris was born, in our audio tour “The Cradle of Paris”, available in the Travelry app.
What to see at Notre Dame Cathedral
On the west side of Notre Dame is the pride of Notre Dame, a large antique organ from the 15th century! Behind it one can see one of the three rose windows, which are the real gothic masterpieces, decorating the cathedral since the XII century.
In front of the altar there is a space for priests and church singers, called choirs. The fence of the choir deserves special attention – it is skillfully decorated with color sculptural compositions with the images of scenes from the Gospel, created in XIII-XIV centuries! Their color decoration was restored during the restoration in the XIX century.
The many interesting sculptures adorning Notre Dame Cathedral will also catch your attention. In particular, the baroque sculpture “Pieta” behind the main altar.
In our audio tour of the island of Cité, we will walk through Notre Dame Cathedral, paying attention to the most interesting things and learning about the history and decoration of the building.
There is a small annex attached to Notre Dame on the river side that deserves special attention. It houses the Shrine Treasury, which contains important Christian relics (including the legendary Crown of Thorns, said to have reached Paris in 1239!), as well as valuable church articles, all of which are exquisite works of art. The collection is very rich and diverse.
Interesting facts about Notre Dame Cathedral
- In 1572, a very unusual wedding ceremony took place in Notre Dame Cathedral. Henry of Navarre (the future King Henry IV) was getting married to Marguerite de Valois. The bride was a Catholic, and nothing prevented her from being in the church, but Henry at the time was a Huguenot, so he was forced to hold his own wedding… in the porch, in front of the entrance to the church.
- It was in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris that the legendary trial of Joan of Arc began, which took place after her execution and completely exonerated the French heroine.
- The famous gargoyles that decorate the cathedral have not only decorative, but also quite practical value: they are part of the gutters that protect the structure from the effects of rainwater. In fact their name derives from the French gargouille, “drainpipe, gutter”. Designed as grotesque characters, gargoyles and chimeras also symbolize human sins and evil spirits that are banished from the temple.
- If you look at the high spire that soars above Notre Dame, you may notice the figures of the twelve apostles at the base of the spire. A curious detail: all the apostles are looking around, and only the apostle Thomas turned toward the spire. Since the Middle Ages, he has been considered the patron saint of builders and architects, and in his image architect Duke, who undertook a restoration in the 19th century and rebuilt the spire, portrayed himself! That is why the apostle Thomas looks so closely at the structure.
- There are beehives on the roof of his vestry of Notre Dame Cathedral (it’s a small extension on the south side)!
Many more curious facts about Notre Dame Cathedral and other sights of the island of Cité you will learn in our audio tour “Cradle of Paris”.
Around Notre Dame Cathedral: what’s interesting nearby
- The “kilometer zero”, a small bronze star set in the square, is located on the square in front of Notre Dame. This is the point from which all the highways of the country are counted.
- Also in the square in front of the cathedral is an archaeological crypt (Crypt of Notre Dame de Paris), which is a museum of archeological artifacts found around Notre Dame during the excavations. The exhibits cover a vast span of history – almost 20 centuries, from antiquity to the 19th century.
- In the southern part of the square in front of Notre Dame stands King Charlemagne, who ruled the Franks in the eighth and early ninth centuries. A monument to him appeared there in the second half of the XIX century.
- The eastern apse of Notre Dame de Paris opens onto a pleasant, shady garden on the banks of the Seine, called the “Quai de la Jeune XXIII”. It is from here you can see the beautiful openwork Gothic arches of the cathedral’s apse and its spire.
- A little further away, on the easternmost tip of the island of Cité, lurks another tiny square, the Ile de France. It contains the Memorial to the Martyrs of Deportation, in memory of the 200,000 French who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis. And near the memorial there is a beautiful and well-kept rose garden.
- Not far from the cathedral, on the picturesque promenade Eau Fleur, stands the house where the famous lovers Pierre Abelard and Heloise once lived (house number 9).
As you see, not only in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, but also around it you can spend many rich and informative hours, looking at the surrounding buildings, studying monuments and resting in the nearby squares. Go a little further and discover other historical and architectural treasures of the island of Cité: the chapel of Saint-Chapelle, the Palace of Justice, the Castle of Conciergerie and other interesting sights. They are on the itinerary of our audio tour “The Cradle of Paris”, where many fascinating stories and interesting narratives await you.
Notre Dame: practical information
How to get there
From remote areas of Paris, the best way to get to Notre Dame Cathedral is by metro – the stations Cite and Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame are located near the cathedral.
And from nearby areas (eg, 1, 2, 5, 6 districts) is quite convenient to walk. The island of Cité, where Notre Dame de Paris is located, is connected to both the right and left banks of the Seine by ancient bridges.
The cathedral is closed for renovation after a fire in April 2019 severely damaged the structure.
Notre Dame: traveler’s tips and tricks
How to avoid the queue
Previously, the “headache” of tourists was the huge queue at Notre Dame Cathedral. Now it is not such a big problem, as recently you can choose the exact time of the visit with the help of special machines installed near the Cathedral, or with the help of mobile application Jefile (in the Russian version – “Out of Queue”). Download the app to your mobile device, enter the number of people who want to visit the cathedral, and select the time of your visit. Thus, you will “take” the line in advance and be able to come to the Cathedral at the right time!
How to listen to the organ
There are services every day at Notre Dame. They begin at 11:30 and are notable for the liturgy, during which you can listen to the famous organ of the cathedral – one of the most powerful and largest in the world.
When to see the Crown of Thorns
The Crown of Thorns, the main holy relic of Notre Dame, is on the first Friday of every month and every Friday in Lent, at 15:00. And on Good Friday (according to the Catholic calendar), the Crown of Thorns is carried out almost for the whole day: from 10 to 17.00.
What else should tourists know
- In the Cathedral of Notre Dame there is no ban on photography, but you can not use a flash.
- The cathedral regularly offers free guided tours in different languages. If you want to get on a Russian-speaking tour, the date and time should be specified in advance.
- Remember that the cathedral is active, and therefore it is undesirable to be in it in a provocative dress and behave too noisy if there is a liturgy.
- In the cathedral is not allowed with the bulky luggage .
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral audio guide
Tourists can use the official audio guide, which also includes Russian. To use the official audio guide you will have to pay € 5.
We also remind you that a detailed, detailed and fascinating story about Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral is included in our audio tour of the island of Cité, in which we offer a journey through different eras of Paris history, from the very beginning of the city, and learn many curious facts about both the cathedral and the island on which it stands.