By far the most famous church in Paris, if not the world, from the French meaning ‘our lady’, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the world famous site that is Notre Dame.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been headed somewhere else before entirely forgetting my intended destination and ending up within these four walls instead!
Fast facts about Notre Dame:
- Notre Dame right in the centre of the city in the middle of the Seine on Île de la Cité. From the 4th to the 14th centuries, the island was the hub of Paris. Today, it is home to Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame, a Flower market and the Palais de Justice. Oh, and that’s if you forget to count the countless cafés and places to purchase crepes!
- Most of the exterior was originally painted (including all of the gargoyles). I can’t even begin to imagine how different the skyline of Paris would look if this were still the case.
- The cathedrals is free to visit and open every day of the year.
- The organ dates all the back to the 18th Century. Although organs were present as early as the 13th century, the sheer size of the Church meant that acoustics were never quite perfect.
What the Cathedral is famous for:
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Victor Hugo’s famous novel has been key in making the cathedral the most famous in Paris. When facing the altar, on the left hand side at the back of the church there is a trap doorway in the ceiling that leads all the way up to the bell tower- this was key to Hugo’s inspiration.
- The most famous bell is called the ‘Emmanuel Bell’ and is only rung on special dates such as Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. It is by far the largest of the Cathedral’s bells and weighs approximately 10 tonnes.
- The crown of thorns. The most famous Christian relic in the world, it cost France more to purchase than it cost to build Sainte- Chapelle (which was originally built to house the crown). On the first Friday of every month, the relic is available to be seen/ kissed. It is otherwise normally available to view at the back of the cathedral under a red film cover.
Architecture of Notre Dame:
The iconic façade is not all the Cathedral is architecturally famous for.
The exterior is filled with gargoyles and chimeras. Often confused with one another, gargoyles have spouts to let out running water from the roof whereas chimeras are just the statues. All of these mythical statues on Notre Dame were individually carved and so each has their own unique personality!
The flying buttresses are some of the first example of their kind in the World. Although not included in the original design, the project ended up being so large that they were required to stabilise the ever increasing strain on the thinning walls.
Interior of Notre Dame:
Although it always looks like there is a long queue to enter the cathedral, it actually only takes around a quarter of an hour to actually get in and so it is well worth the wait.
As soon as you step in the world famous building, the sheer enormity of the place confronts you. At 130 metres long, it’s not surprising that this is the case… But it really does feel like a tardis inside!
Recently, I wrote about the best panoramic views over Paris. Oh, how wrong I was to not include the view from the top of what may well be the most famous cathedral in the world.
There are two levels to the viewing towers; while we had about twenty minutes on the first level, we only had about five on the second, upper level. Both levels offer panoramic 360 degree views over the city. I have to say that I preferred the upper level as the lower level is covered by 10cm squared netting (making photo taking that much more difficult)!
At the back of the square behind the entrance lies the entrance to the archaeological crypt.
Established in 1965, the underground museum covers thousands of years worth of Parisian history; highlights include the Romans in Paris and the foundations of Notre Dame Cathedral.