Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris is a majestic Catholic church on the island of Cité in the center of Paris. It is an outstanding monument of architecture praised in the art and is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world. Every year 13-14 million tourists come to Notre-Dame de Paris to see the Gothic silhouette, decorated with picturesque stained-glass windows and ghastly gargoyles, staring upwards. Notre Dame de Paris is the geographical center not only of Paris, but also of the whole country. Here is the so-called “kilometer zero” from which all distances in France are counted.

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Video: Notre Dame de Paris

History of the construction of the cathedral

Temples have been located in this place since time immemorial, back in Roman times there was a temple here dedicated to Jupiter. The Merovingians, who ruled Gaul between 500 and 571, built St. Etienne’s Cathedral here.

Notre Dame de Paris was founded in 1163 by Maurice de Sully, bishop of Paris, with the cornerstone laid by Pope Alexander III. Its erection lasted until 1345, that is, it took almost two centuries. During this time, the project was managed by dozens of architects, which did not prevent them from erecting a beautiful and organic ensemble. According to historical data, there were several other churches, both Christian and pagan, on the same site.

Notre Dame de Paris was built by many architects, but Pierre de Montreuil and Jean de Chelle are considered to be the main contributors. The building was laid during the reign of Louis VII. That’s when the Gothic style became popular in architecture, which was used by the architects. This style was successfully blended with the Romanesque style from Normandy tradition, giving the cathedral a unique look.

Painting of the Coronation of Napoleon I (December 2, 1804) by Jacques-Louis David in 1807. East facade of the cathedral, 1860s

The history of France and Notre Dame cannot be separated, for it was here that the knights offered their prayers as they departed for the Crusades, the coronation of Napoleon, the celebration of victory over Nazi troops and many other events took place.

North Dam is shrouded in an atmosphere of mysticism and dark romance The west facade of Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris has suffered greatly from inept reconstructions during the events of the late eighteenth century, and later from popular neglect. Thus, the French Revolution almost deprived the world of this unique monument of architecture; they even wanted to burn it. Many sculptures were broken or beheaded, stained-glass windows destroyed, precious utensils plundered. The building was declared a Temple of the Mind, then a center of the Cult of the Supreme Being, and later was simply turned into a food warehouse. Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris, which took center stage in the story of the hunchback’s love for the beautiful gypsy girl, saved the architectural ensemble from total destruction. The publication of the work not only made the writer famous, but also drew the attention of the general public to the exceptional historical and aesthetic value of the ancient building.

This is where the “Kilometer Zero” is located, the point of reference of all distances in France.

It was decided to reconstruct Notre Dame according to all the rules of ancient technology. Viollet-le-Duca successfully coped with such a difficult task, as the architect had knowledge of the methods of construction of the ancient masters who worked on the construction of the temple. The restoration of Notre Dame de Paris lasted more than a quarter of a century. During this time the facades and interior decoration were restored, the sculpture gallery and part of the gargoyles destroyed by the revolutionaries were reconstructed, and all the surviving infernal “guards” were returned to their rightful place.

In addition, a spire more than 95 meters high was built and installed on the roof. In subsequent years, the Parisians were extremely reverent about their shrine. It is noteworthy that the temple practically has not suffered in the period of the two World Wars. At the end of the XX century, another restoration has been initiated, which has allowed the building to be completely cleared of urban dust and to return the sandstone, of which the facade was made, to its original golden hue.

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View of Notre Dame Cathedral through the archway

Video: Consequences of the cathedral fire

Facade and gargoyles

The most popular attribute of the exterior decoration of Notre Dame de Paris remains the stone demonic creatures. Gargoyles are present here in large numbers and are intended not only for decoration, but also to divert water from the many drains on the roof. The fact is that the unusually complex construction of the roof contributes to the accumulation of moisture due to precipitation, because it can not run off as freely as from conventional houses. This can lead to mold, damping and destruction of stone, so the quality gutters just need any Gothic cathedral.

Traditionally, unattractive outlets pipes masked figures of gargoyles, chimeras, dragons, less often – people or real animals. Many see hidden meanings in these demonic images, so there is great scope for imagination. It is noteworthy that there were no stone demons on the cathedral when it was built; they were installed at the suggestion of the restorer Viollet-le-Duc, who used this medieval tradition.

Bas-relief of the cathedral of the Virgin Mary with the Child and the Angels The gargoyles of Notre Dame Notre Dame Cathedral at sunset

The main facade is decorated with stone statues and has three portals. The main one is in the middle; its arches are supported by seven statues on each side, and the main decoration is a relief scene of the Last Judgement. The right portal is dedicated to St. Anne, depicting the Virgin Mary with the Child, and the left one to the Mother of God, with the signs of the zodiac and a depiction of the coronation of the Virgin Mary. The huge doors are decorated with wrought-iron relief images.

The already mentioned spire on the roof replaced the one that was dismantled at the end of the XVIII century. The structure is decorated with four groups of apostles, as well as animals corresponding to the evangelists. All the statues face the French capital, with the exception of St. Thomas, the patron saint of architects, who seems to be admiring the spire.

Almost all of the stained-glass windows are quite modern, made during the restoration of the temple in the 19th century. Only in the central rose of the winds some medieval parts have been preserved. The pattern of this large-scale construction (9.5 meters in diameter) of colored glass depicts Mary, as well as rural works, signs of the Zodiac, human virtues and sins. The northern and southern facades are equipped with the largest roses that exist in Europe. Each of them is about 13 meters in diameter.

The facade of Notre Dame, including three portals: Our Lady, the Last Judgement, and St. Anne, as well as the Gallery of the Kings above

Interior decoration of Notre Dame de Paris

The structure in longitudinal section is a cross, in the center of which there is a complex of sculptural images of various Gospel scenes. Interestingly, there are no internal supporting walls here; their function is performed by multifaceted columns. A large number of artistic carvings are flooded with unearthly light, which is painted in different colors, passing through the glasses of several roses. On the right side of Notre Dame, tourists can admire the remarkable sculptures, paintings and other works of art that are traditionally presented to Our Lady every year on the first of May. The majestic central chandelier was designed by Viollet-le-Duc, and after the reconstruction it replaced the panikhandel, melted down during the French Revolution.

Interior of Notre Dame The stained-glass window of Notre Dame. Because of the abundance of biblical scenes in the Middle Ages, the cathedral was called the “Bible for the unread.”

Between the portal and the higher tier is the Gallery of Kings, where sculptures of Old Testament rulers are on display. Revolutionaries ruthlessly destroyed the original statues, so they were made anew. At the end of the XX century, fragments of individual sculptures were found under one of the Parisian houses. It turned out that the owner had bought them in the troubled times to bury them with honors, and later built his dwelling on that spot.

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It is impossible not to mention the majestic organ installed in the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. It was equipped as early as when the temple was built, and has been rebuilt and reconstructed many times. Today this organ is the largest in France by number of registers and the second largest by number of pipes, some of which are preserved from the Middle Ages.

The organ in Notre Dame de Paris

South Bell Tower

If you want to enjoy Parisian panoramas as beautiful as the ones from the Eiffel Tower it is absolutely worth climbing up the South Tower of Notre-Dame de Paris. Here leads a spiral staircase of 387 steps, climbing up which you will see the main bell of the cathedral, Emmanuelle, and be able to consider the gargoyles in close proximity. It is believed that they look so closely to the west because they are waiting for the sun to set, after which they come to life each night.

Museum and Treasury

There is a museum in the cathedral where every visitor can learn about the history of the temple in all the details and listen to many famous and little-known stories associated with the place. Various exhibits that relate directly to the centuries-old life of Notre Dame are preserved here.

In the Treasury of Notre Dame de Paris

From the shrine, you can go to the underground Treasury, which was taken out under the square in front of the cathedral. It contains historical and religious relics: utensils, precious objects of art, and so on. But the most important items are the Crown of Thorns of Christ, one of the nails that crucified Jesus and a piece of the same cross.

Order and Cost of Visitation

To get inside Notre Dame de Paris, you have to stand in a long line. According to statistics, every day from 30 to 50 thousand people cross the threshold of Notre Dame, depending on the time of year. Entrance to the cathedral itself is free, but to climb the bell tower each adult has to pay 15 euros. Those whose age is less than 26 years can pass for free. The cost of visiting the Treasury is 4 euros for adults, 2 euros for young people 12-26 years old and 1 euro for visitors 6-12 years old. Children under 6 years can enter for free. In addition, on all Fridays of Lent, as well as on the first days of each month, the treasures are free for public viewing. These exhibitions usually start around three o’clock in the afternoon.

You can feed the birds near the cathedral.

Each visitor has the opportunity to use the audio guide in English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese or Japanese. The cost of this service is 5€.

How to get there

The full address of the shrine is 6 place du Parvis Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cit, 75004 Paris. The Chalet, Île de la Cité and Hôtel de Ville metro stations are a five-minute walk away. Alternatively, you can take bus routes 21, 38, 47 or 85. Notre Dame de Paris is open from 8:00 to 18:45 on weekdays, and from 7:00 to 15:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Every Saturday services are held there at 5.45 and at 18.15.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Important information: In April 2019 there was a fire that destroyed the steeple, burned the wooden frame of the roof, and the building itself was badly damaged. The cathedral is currently undergoing restoration work, causing access to the interior to be closed to visitors. You can follow the news on the official website of the cathedral.

Notre Dame de Paris, or Notre Dame de Paris, is one of the symbols of Paris and a masterpiece of Gothic architecture on a global scale. It is shrouded in age-old secrets and legends, it has survived destruction and been reborn again. Despite the fact that it is the seat of the Archdiocese of Paris, the religious object itself belongs to the state property. The Catholic Church has been given the right of gratuitous and perpetual use.

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Night illumination

The cathedral rises above one of the islands of the Seine – Cité, located in the heart of the French capital. Around the iconic structure unfolds the main events in many works of fiction. The most famous is the historical novel by Victor Hugo “Notre Dame de Paris”, published in 1831 and became an international bestseller. Movies, operas, ballets and musicals have been based on it. Notre Dame de Paris has also been the subject of documentaries, and has been mentioned in various degrees in films, cartoons, songs, catchphrases, and even computer games.


Supposedly, the site of Notre-Dame de Paris was originally a pagan temple. In the 4th century it was replaced by an early Christian church built in the image and likeness of the ancient basilicas of Rome and Ravenna. In the 7th century a new, more expanded religious structure appeared – the temple of St. Stephen. It was periodically subjected to destruction, but continued to be rebuilt until Maurice de Sully, who accepted the bishopric of Paris in 1160, initiated the construction of Notre Dame de Paris, a grandiose and beautiful cathedral.

Stained-glass windows

Construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163. The first stone in the foundation of the temple was laid by Pope Alexander III, who was in Paris at the time. The work was carried out in several stages, a total of 182 years. They were completed in 1345, after finishing finishing the whole cathedral.

Chronology of the main events:

  • 1177 – the walls of the choir (the eastern part of the temple between the nave and the apse) were erected;
  • 1182 – consecration of the altar by Cardinal Henri de Marcy, a bishop;
  • 1196: Construction of the center aisle is completed;
  • 1200 г. – Beginning of decoration of the west (main) façade;
  • 1240 and 1250. – In turn the cathedral’s towers are finished, firstly the southern, then the northern one;
  • The middle of the XIII century and the beginning of the XIV century. – the transepts are enlarged, the chapels are equipped, the facades are finished.

The rosettes and towers

During the construction of the religious building many architects were replaced, which is reflected in the details, the differences in levels and mix of styles. The most important architects to have made their mark on Notre-Dame de Paris are considered to be the French architects Jean de Chelle and Pierre-De Montreuil. They supervised the work between 1250 and 1967.

Much damage to Notre Dame de Paris was done during the Great French Revolution. All because the Parisians refused to pay a bribe for the needs of the ideas of the liberation movement in other countries. In 1793, on Robespierre’s personal order, the facade sculptures of Jewish kings were beheaded, mistaking them for figures of French monarchs. In addition the unique stained-glass windows were damaged and the spire erected in the middle of the 13th century was demolished. The latter could be restored only during the restoration works of the 1840s.

The figures of the apostles and the spire

At the threshold of the XIX century Notre Dame de Paris appeared in a deplorable condition. It was returned to the church in 1802, and in 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned here. Nevertheless, no one was engaged in restoration of the cathedral; on the contrary, there was talk of its demolition. The situation was saved thanks to Victor Hugo, who wrote the novel “Notre Dame de Paris”. The work saw the light in 1831, and 10 years later began a grand restoration of the temple, which lasted 23 years. At that time, not only were the destroyed elements restored, but new ones appeared as well. The most remarkable was the gallery of chimeras, located on the top platform of the facade. Such an unusual idea belonged to the French architect Viollet-le-Duc.

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During its long history the walls of Notre-Dame de Paris have seen coronations and abdications, marriages and baptisms, memorial services and rehabilitation trials, the transfer of the crown of thorns of Christ into the bosom of the church and humiliating penances. The participants were always the mighty of this world.

View from the observation deck

Architecture and interior decoration of the cathedral

The west (main) façade of Notre-Dame de Paris overlooks the Place de la Décor, where you can see the kilometer zero of France, which is a reference point for all roads of the country passing through the capital. Here is also the archaeological museum “Crypt of Notre Dame”, which displays ancient, medieval artifacts and objects from past centuries, found during the excavations on the island of Cité. In front of the cathedral is an equestrian statue of Charlemagne, and on the south side of the temple is a monument to John Paul II, who was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 2014.

The west facade of the cathedral is divided into three vertical sections, visually emphasizing the side towers and the main part of the temple. In the lower horizontal tier are buried portals decorated with sculptures and bas-relief panels dotted with narrative images:

  • To the left is the portal of the Virgin Mary;
  • in the center – the portal of the Last Judgment;
  • on the right, the portal of St. Helen.

Sculptures of Jewish kings

Above them are 28 statues of Jewish kings in a single row. Above is a large stained-glass rose with a sculpture of the Madonna and Child surrounded by angels in the background. The figures of Adam and Eve are at the side lancet apertures. At the base of the towers is an observation deck with figures of fantastic and demonic beings seated on the railing and cornices. In the two towers there are bells. Their ringing can be heard at 08:00 and 19:00.

The eastern apse is supported by retaining arches – arkbutans, combining distributive power and decorative functions. The southern and northern facades are attractive in their own way. There are bas-reliefs, stained-glass rosettes, statues, openwork pediments and richly decorated portals.

South facade

The roof covering is a carpet of laid overlapping lead tiles. Its total weight is 210 tons. Four groups of apostolic figures, facing Paris, rise in tiers to the oak spire. Only one of them looks in the opposite direction. It is thought that its image is that of Viollet-le-Duc, who took part in the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In order to get to the observation deck of the cathedral, you will need to overcome 387 steps by a narrow spiral staircase. In addition to a close acquaintance with the gargoyles, visitors are offered stunning views of Paris, a souvenir shop and a compact cell of the main character of the novel by W. Hugo. Hugo – Quasimodo, references to the real existence of which were discovered only recently.

Panorama of Paris

Since 2013, beehives have been installed on the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris, supporting an unusual initiative of Parisians actively engaged in the collection of honey in urban settings. The insects collect pollen from flowers placed on balconies rather than from plants in fields irrigated with pesticides.

Notre Dame de Paris in numbers:

  • height under the vault – 33 m;
  • roof height – 43 m;
  • the height of the belfries – 69 m;
  • height of the spire (collapsed in a fire) – 96 m;
  • total length – 128 m;
  • total width with transepts – 48 m;
  • area – 4,800 sq. m;
  • the largest bell Emmanuel – diameter 2.62 m, weight 13.23 t.

Stained-glass window rosette

Internal interior decoration

The cathedral has five naves divided by rows of columns and two transepts practically not extending beyond the side facades. The architectural composition is supplemented with the upper galleries and six-part vaulted ceiling with projecting ribs. There are no murals on the walls, which is typical for Gothic churches. There are sculptures everywhere, including the Virgin Mary with the Child, St. Anthony, St. Teresa, etc.

In the chapels you can see numerous paintings, the number of which is traditionally replenished every year on May 1. For several centuries, they have been donated to the cathedral.

Assumption Cathedral in the Trinity Sergius Lavra

The colorful stained-glass windows installed in 110 windows are stunning in their play of colors. Only three unique glass apertures have survived – on the roses on the western facade and above the entrances to the two transepts. The rest were replaced due to the destruction of the stained glass by vandals. Most were restored after the masterpieces were destroyed by French revolutionaries.

Cathedral inside

The first organ appeared in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in 1402. It was repeatedly reconstructed and expanded. In the mid-19th century the instrument was completely rebuilt, and in 1992 it was upgraded using computer technology. The organ of Notre-Dame de Paris is the largest in France by the number of registers.

The main holy place

The crown of thorns of Christ was kept until the 11th century on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Later it was deposited in Venice, but not redeemed. In 1238 the wreath ended up in the possession of Louis IX, who a year later gave it to the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. Until the French Revolution, the relic was kept in the Holy Chapel (Sainte-Chapelle). It was then moved to the treasury of Notre-Dame de Paris, but after the fire the wreath was moved again. Today the relic is housed in the City Hall of Paris.


Fire at Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral on April 15, 2019

On April 15, 2019, around 7:00 p.m., a fire broke out at Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral. The fire engulfed almost the entire roof of the temple. All night firefighters fought the fire, at the time of the fire French officials did not rule out that the temple could be completely destroyed. However, they managed to save the works of art and religious objects kept in the cathedral, in particular, the crown of thorns, laid on the head of Jesus Christ before the crucifixion. According to the President of France Emmanuel Macron, they managed to avoid the worst scenario, and the best talents of the present will restore the building. Pictures of the cathedral in flames – in the photo report at

Working hours

The cathedral is open daily from 08:00. On weekdays it closes at 18:45, and on Saturday and Sunday at 19:15. From 09:30 to 18:00 there is an information desk located at the entrance to the temple.

From Monday to Saturday services are held at 08:00, 09:00 (except July, August and first half of September); 12:00 (at the main altar), 17:45 and 18:15. Sunday services are held at 8:30, 09:30, 10:00, 11:30 (International Mass), 12:45, 17:45, 18:30 (broadcast live on the Catholic television channel KTO Télévision Catholique and Radio Notre-Dame).


With few exceptions, Sunday evening Mass is presided over by the Archbishop of Paris. It is celebrated at the main altar of Notre Dame de Paris.

On the first Friday of each month and on Fridays during Lent, at 15:00, the crown of thorns, a unique relic and one of the greatest sacred objects of Christianity, is brought to the sight of the faithful.

Check the official website for the hours of the cathedral and the schedule of celebratory masses.

How to reach Notre Dame de Paris

Directly on the island of Cité is the metro station 4 – “Cité”, as well as bus stops:

  • “Pont Neuf” – Nos. 70, 72, 74;
  • “Cité – Palais de Justice” – #21, 38, 47, 58, 96
  • “Cité – Pont d’Arcole – no. 75.

On the left bank of Seine stop high-speed trains RER B and RER C – station “Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame”. On the right bank is a metro station of lines 1, 7, 11 and 14 – “Châtelet”.

Round-the-clock parking on the island of Cité:

  • Saemes Notre Dame – at Place du Parvis Notre-Dame, accessed from Rue la rue de la Cité;
  • Lutèce-Cité – at Boulevard du Palais.

A photo report about Notre-Dame de Paris can be found in the material placed on our site.

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