All Paris Hotels Blog

May 30, 2010

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris France

There is so much history in Paris often you do not know where to start, and with numerous different monuments to visit, you cannot forget visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral that is over 800 years old!

Situated on a small island called the Ile de la Cite in the middle of River Seine, its official name is The Notre Dame de Paris, but is often known simply as Notre Dame and is a Gothic cathedral that took nearly 200 years to be complete.  It was first started in 1163 during the reign of King Louis VII, but did not get finished until around 1345.

Even though Notre Dame had held many important events, such as Henry VI of England being crowned King of France in 1431, over the years it fell into disrepair.  But it was Napoleon that saved the church from demolition back in 1802 and then he got crowned Emperor here in 1804, however it was still in a very bad state of disrepair.

We are sure you have heard of the novel by Victor Hugo called the Hunchback of Notre Dame and this particular story was what brought people together to raise money for its restoration, which managed to bring it virtually back to its former glory.

And in fact, following the start of World War II, it was feared that German bombers could destroy the stained glass windows so they were removed and restored at the end of the war and one particular round stained glass window, called the Rose Window, was the biggest window in the world when it was produced back in the 13th century, and it still contains its original medieval glass.

Notre Dame translates as Our Lady and 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 instead of manpower the bell is now rung automatically and by taking a climb up the spiral staircase, you can get to see this enormous bell that was saved from being melted down.

Also when climbing to the bell tower and further you can see the flying buttress style used in the construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral along with the gargoyles on the outside of the building, designed to ward of evil spirits plus going further you get an excellent view of the city but it is around 140 more steps.

Now it is obvious that every cathedral has an organ, but Notre Dame has actually had several, although the first ones were far too inadequate and the first sensible organ was installed in the early 1700’s with some of the original pipe work remaining today. 

But one of the old 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, the famous cathedral organist and the museum is only one street away from the cathedral.  Although small it is fascinating and holds extremely old, interesting documents such as drawings, plans and engravings, which reveal the mysteries and various development stages of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral plus it recounts life in the City from Lutecia before it was known as Paris.

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

Open every day of the year, The Notre Dame de Paris 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 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 the English guided tours are provided on a Wednesday at 2pm, Thursday at 2pm and a Saturday at 2.30pm.  Other language tours such as Spanish, Russian, Japanese, etc are held at different times, but any of these can be cancelled if there is a special occasion, so it always worth checking with staff on site, or telephoning prior.

So whether you are going for pilgrimage or just as a tourist, this fascinating building that has become a famous landmark in Paris, is not to be missed on your holiday in France.

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