I may have passed by it thousands of times in Paris, my home town. Still: every time I walk by, I have to stop to admire its stunning architecture, detailed sculptures, scary gargoyles, and beautiful glow in the evening sun. In more than 850 years, it has seen many passers-by like me at its feet… Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most renowned examples of French gothic architecture.
Bishop Maurice de Sully had a vision of a great cathedral and had no less than four former churches and some houses demolished to build this masterpiece dedicated to Virgin Mary in the 12th century. The constructions started in 1163 to be completed in 1345, more than 180 year by the best workers from all over Europe. The pavement in front of the cathedral shows the patterns of the old narrow medieval streets leading to Notre Dame that seemed to reach for the sky amongst these low buildings.
Putting Paris on the map as one of the most powerful capitals of the time, it has seen so many episodes of the French history. One of the darkest one was the French revolution when the statues of the 28 kings of Judah (mistakenly thought to be the kings of France) were beheaded. They were restored in the 19th century and can be admired today on the façade above the main entrance.
Further up, on the roof 12 statues represent the 12 apostles and can be seen when strolling around the cathedral in the Square Jean XXIII, offering great views on its refined architecture. Hundreds of other statues decorate the cathedral.
All the way up, on the top of the spire that was added in the 19th century, a rooster contains three very important relics: a piece of the crown of thorns of the Christ, one of Saint Denis’, the first bishop of Paris, and one of Sainte Genevieve’s, the patroness of the city.
The inside is as beautiful as the outside, especially in the morning when the stain-glass windows and their bible stories are lit up by the sunrays. No wonder why Notre Dame de Paris, this masterpiece of gothic architecture welcomes 14 million annual visitors, making it the most visited site of Paris, France, and of all of Europe!
Marcella & Claire
- Don’t get intimidated by the queue as it goes fast!
- Check out this interactive map (quick tutorial) for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!!