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Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris

There is so much history in Paris with numerous different monuments to go and visit and who could go to this famous city without visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral that is over eight hundred years old!

Although its official name is The Notre Dame de Paris, it is often known simply as Notre Dame and is a Gothic cathedral that is situated on the eastern half of the Ile de la Cite, which is a small island that is found in the middle of the River Seine.

This fabulous building had its construction started in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, yet taking nearly two hundred years to build, it did not get finished until around the year 1345.

Even though the Notre Dame Cathedral has held numerous important events in history such as Henry VI of England being crowned King of France on 16th December 1431, over the years it had fallen into disrepair.  Yet it was Napoleon that saved the church from demolition back in 1802, then got crowned Emperor at this fantastic building in 1804, however it was still in a very bad state of disrepair, needing much more work.

Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris
Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

Now you have no doubt heard of the novel by Victor Hugo called the Hunchback of Notre Dame and this particular story was what fuelled people to get together and raise money for its restoration and even though many treasures were destroyed during the French Revolution, the cathedral is now virtually back to its former glory.

In fact, following the start of World War II, it was feared that German bombers could destroy the stained glass windows and as a result, on 11th September 1939, they were removed and restored at the end of the war.

One particular stained glass window, which is round, was the biggest window in the world when it was produced back in the thirteenth century, and called the Rose Window, today it still contains its original medieval glass with scenes from the bible.

Notre Dame translates as Our Lady from French and today this monument in Paris is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral for Sunday mass, is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris and is utilised for major events when the famous bell is rung.  But these days, the bell is rung automatically rather than with manpower and by taking a climb up the spiral staircase, you can get to see this enormous bell that was saved from being melted down.

The Notre Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress style and by climbing the steps you can see this construction along with the gargoyles on the outside of the building, which were put in place to ward away evil spirits.

Every cathedral has an organ and the Notre Dame is no exception, but in fact it has actually had several, although the first ones were far too inadequate for the size of the building.  The first sensible organ was installed in the early 1700's and even today some of the original pipe work remains, but one of the cathedral organs can be viewed at the Musee de Notre Dame de Paris, along with the music scores, notes and some personal articles that are on display from Louis Vierne.  Vierne was the most well known of all the organists and was the main key organist from 1900, holding the position for thirty-seven years, and he actually died at the Notre Dame cathedral organ, which was his life-long wish.

The museum itself is only one street and a very short walk away from the cathedral and although small is incredibly fascinating and holds some extremely old and interesting documents such as drawings, plans and engravings, which reveal the mysteries and various development stages of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral.

The Musee de Notre Dame de Paris also recounts life in the City from Lutecia before it was known as Paris, but getting back to Notre Dame Cathedral itself, there are so many fascinating this to see on a visit here.

Even though going up to the bell tower is great, you can also climb even higher, with approximately another 140 steps, where you have a fantastic view of Paris, especially at night when the city is all lit up.

Also, in the square to the front of Notre Dame is a plaque that was put in place by André Michelin, who was the founder of the Michelin tyre business and it is from this point that all distances in France are measured. 

The Notre Dame de Paris is open every day of the year and is free to enter although there is a charge to venture up the tower, which is accessed on the outside of the church on the left hand side when you are looking at the main entrance of the cathedral.

You can also have a guided visit, which is organised by the cathedral staff itself and these are conducted in different languages on different days of the week.  For instance English guided tours are provided on Wednesday at 2pm, Thursday at 2pm and a Saturday at 2.30pm, whereas Japanese guided tours are held on a Friday at 2pm except for the first Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent.

Other language tours such as Spanish, Russian, etc are held at different times, but any of these can be cancelled if there is a special occasion, such as when the Requiem Mass of Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, archbishop emeritus of Paris, was held in the August of 2007, so it always worth checking with staff on site, or phoning prior.

So whether you are going for pilgrimage or just as a tourist, this is a fascinating building, which has become one of the famous landmarks in Paris and is not to be missed on your holiday in France.


Notre Dame Cathedral



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