Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris

One of the oldest, grandest and most famous cathedrals in the world, Notre-Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris”) recently celebrated it’s 850th birthday, and has been a pivotal element of the character of Paris throughout its history. Situated on the Île de la Cité, arguably the oldest part of Paris with a history of settlement going back to the 2nd century BC, construction of Notre Dame began in 1163 and the building replaced an even older cathedral that dated from the 4th century.

The Île de la Cité is an island in the middle of the river Seine, and is central to the history of the City of Lights. As one of the oldest settlements in Europe, it was fortified in the late 3rd century BC, occupied by the Parisi Gauls until Roman times, became an important Roman imperial and administrative residence, and was the royal seat of Clovis, King of the Franks in 508. The island would then remain the royal residence for the next six hundred years until Philippe Auguste built the medieval citadel and castle that we know today as the Louvre. Much of this early history can be explored with a visit to the crypts beneath Notre-Dame, an archeological site managed by the Musée Carnavalet and accessed by a set of stairs at the western end of the square in front of the cathedral.

Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris from the Seine

Notre-Dame cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and was among the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses (arched exterior supports maintaining the structural integrity of the tall, wide interior space). It remains one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, with a unique place in French music and literature.

In fact, much of French history is reflected in the history of the cathedral. For example, it was improved, aggrandised and modernised during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, as those monarchs would have said of all France. But in 1793, as a result of the French revolution, the cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason, and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being, during which much of the building was vandalised and many of its treasures were destroyed or plundered and lost. Shortly later, it was the setting for the coronation of Napoleon as Emperor. The restoration of the monarchy also saw a restoration of Notre-Dame, with equal controversy. The second World War brought more damage and the loss of several of the older stained glass windows.

Notre-Dame de ParisStructurally, aside from the impressive flying buttresses, the cathedral is possibly best known for its gargoyles, the line of statues of Kings of Judea along the front facade (no, they’re not kings of France), the beautiful rose-patterned stained glass windows at each end, and the impressive bells. The largest of these bells, located in the south tower, has a diameter of more than two and a half metres, and weighs a massive 13 tonnes.

The cathedral remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, with visitors often having to queue for hours in peak periods. Open from 8am to 6.45pm (7.15pm on Saturdays and Sundays) every day of the year, access to the cathedral is always free. Keep in mind, of course, that it is still an operating church, and the seat of the Bishop of Paris, so please remember to respect the spiritual purpose of the building, especially during services. The cathedral organises guided tours every day of the year, though in various languages on different days. For a complete list of tours, languages and times visit the cathedral’s official website at .

Even if you don’t want to tour inside, the plaza in front of the cathedral is a popular spot to meet, to rest, or to be seen. So very French!


Notre-Dame de Paris

Teddy enjoyed relaxing outside the amazing Notre-Dame de Paris with some of the locals.


NB – No hunchback was evident during Teddy’s visit.



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