Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is not the biggest, the tallest, or the oldest cathedral in the world, but it certainly is one of the most well known. Whether Notre Dame brings to mind Victor Hugo’s hunchback, Quasimodo or past architecture classes on ‘flying buttresses’, seeing the cathedral in the ‘flesh’ should be one of your ‘musts’ on any trip to Paris. If you’re not a churchgoer, the cathedral can be admired just as well from the exterior as from the interior. You can climb up to its bell tower for a magnificent view and a closer look at some of its decorative gargoyles.
The construction of Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. It took 200 years (completed in 1345) to finish building this marvel of gothic architecture.
Although much of what you see today is the result of 19th century restorations by Viollet le Duc, its medieval character remains intact and keeps us in touch with the religious fervor that helped realize such an ambitious architectural feat.
Notre Dame de Paris’s nativity scene can expect as many as two million visitors during the Christmas season.
Here’s some trivia: Notre Dame has witnessed the crowning of a variety of kings, queens, emperors and empresses. Henry VI, King of England was crowned here in 1430. (By the way, dare I say it, but Paris was occupied by the English longer than most Parisians care to remember. If Joan of Arc hadn’t shown up, who knows?
Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of France here (she married Francis II).
Napoleon and Josephine crowned themselves emperor and empress. Originally the pope was supposed to crown Napoleon but he was so eager to become Emperor that he plunked the crown on his head before the pope had time to reconsider.
Notre Dame Cathedral is located on the Ile de la Cite in the middle of the Seine River. If you’re staying on the Right Bank or the Left Bank, you’ll have to cross a bridge to get to Notre Dame. The Metro stop, Cite, or the RER stop, St. Michel will bring will bring you within five minutes from the cathedral’s front door.
Notre Dame Cathedral is open daily from 8 am to 6:45 pm and 7:15 pm on weekends. Entrance into the church is free. However, there is a charge for visiting the towers or the ‘Tresors’ the collection of relics. A visit to the towers is well worth the admission fee. There are 387 steps to reach the bell tower, so you must be in good shape! The ‘Tresors’ may be less appealing to many tourists.
Visiting hours:for the towers
Jan 1 – Mar 31: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Apr 1 – Jun 30: 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Jul 1 – Aug 31: 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays)
Sept 1 – Sept 30: 9:30 a..m. – 6:30 p.m.
Oct 1 – Dec 31: 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25.
Admission to towers
Adults: 7.50 Euros
Age 18 to 25: 4.80 Euros
Up to Age 17: Free.
For more info about the towers, take a look at Durant and Cheryl Imboden’s informative article about the tower tour.
Did you know that the Notre Dame Cathedral offers free tours in several languages? You can check out the Notre Dame official website for specific times. The English tours are normally conducted at 2 pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 2:30 pm on Saturdays.
Another way you can appreciate the appreciate the interior of of this labor of love is by attending one of the many concerts. Although Notre Dame is an active place of worship, it’s also a gift of medieval artisans to all the generations that have followed them – and all the visitors of various beliefs who come to admire a labor done not for financial rewards but for spiritual rewards.
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