The Notre Dame Cathedral is located at Île de la Cité, the city’s historical center. Also known as Notre Dame de Paris (‘Our Lady of Paris’), this impressive early Gothic cathedral currently receives about 13 million visitors a year and is home to the official chair of the Catholic Archbishop of Paris.
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The Notre Dame Cathedral took from 1163 to 1345 to be constructed, and has been witness to the passing of many historical events and notable people. It has survived rioting from Huguenots, the French Revolution, the Paris Commune and both World Wars.
On December 16th 1431, Henry VI of England was crowned King of France within the Notre Dame Cathedral’s walls. On December 2nd, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor. Joan of Arc was both beatified and canonized at the Cathedral during the 20th Century… and the list goes on.
Restorations to the Notre Dame Cathedral’s detailed portals, beautiful religious imagery and stained glass windows have been carried out as early as the 19th century, after its first massive desecration during the French Revolution in the 1790s.
The 1985 restoration program took 25 years to be concluded and was overseen by renowned architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Another major maintenance and restoration program was initiated in 1991 and, despite having been intended to last 10 years, is still being carried out today on the Cathedral’s sculptures.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is also known for its great bourdon bell, located in the South Tower, which is tolled daily at every hour. The bell – called Emmanuel – was also responsible for announcing that French liberation was under way on August 24 1944 toward the end of World War II.
Today, the Notre Dame Cathedral remains an active church, still performing mass and ceremonial services. Its Lent sermons have been famous since their foundation in the 1860s, and have become a strong attraction to Catholics worldwide.
Moreover, its impressive architecture and strong historical presence capture visitors from all religious backgrounds all year around.
The Notre Dame Cathedral main attractions include:
Cathedral – Take a free tour around the massive Notre Dame Cathedral’s main building and witness the magic and history contained within its walls. Don’t miss the King’s Gallery featuring the statues of 28 Kings of Judah and Israel, the Last Judgment, St. Anne, Virgin and Transept Portals and the West, South and North Rose, the three most impressive stained glass windows within the Cathedral.
Tower – Visit the upper parts of the Cathedral´s west façade, the famous Galerie des Chimères (where you can find the legendary gargoyles) and Notre Dame’s oldest bell, Emmanuel.
Crypt – The Notre Dame Cathedral was built over the ruins of the Saint Etienne basilica, Paris’ first Christian church. However, before that, the Romans had built a temple to the god Jupiter on exactly the same site. Take a trip back in time at the Cathedral’s crypt, where you’ll find various elements belonging to all of these buildings, found during the 1965 archeological excavations.
Treasury – Over the centuries, all great Christian Cathedrals in France received and collected a great number of donations in the form of valuable religious objects. Back then these objects were a reserve to be used in times of crises. The Treasury allows visitors to see the objects donated to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Holy Relics of the Passion of the Christ being the Cathedral’s holiest possession.
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