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Cathedral of Notre Dame Paris, France


About Notre Dame Cathedral:

The Famous Rose Window in Notre Dame de Paris
The Famous “Rose Window” in Notre Dame de Paris

Certainly the most well-known Church in Paris, some 13 million people visit this famous landmark every year (up until the fire in 2019).  It took 182 years to build before the church was finally consecrated in 1345, with the work being carried out under a succession of bishops and master builders.

And just outside the Cathedral is a point called “Paris Point Zero”. It is a small plaque located outside the Cathedral, and often overlooked by visitors. All other locations are thought to be measured as a distance radiating from this point.

Structurally, the use of flying buttresses (which gave the necessary structural support) was one of its most prominent features.  It’s also famous for its 8,000-pipe organ.

England’s King Henry VI was crowned King of France in the cathedral in 1431. In 1793, Catholic worship was banned in Paris as a result of the French Revolution and it became the “temple of reason”.  Notre-Dame Cathedral was looted and vandalized. The west façade, which was adorned with statues of 28 Kings of Judea dating back to 1230, were pulled down and decapitated in the square in front of the cathedral. The mob had mistakenly thought they were statues of French kings.

The Cathedral was restored in the late 18th century and Napoleon I had his coronation as Emperor there in 1804 (he crowned himself).

The Cathedral has survived wars and revolutions and represents an outstanding example of Gothic architecture.  The Cathedral can hold almost 6,000 people, and the artwork inside and outside is an outstanding example of religious art, with thousands of images in its stained glass windows, sculptures and gargoyles.

Notre Dame Cathedral also houses two relics: the Crown of Thorns (brought to Paris by King Louis IX in the 13th century) and a fragment of the True Cross. These were originally in Saint Chapelle, but later moved to Notre Dame. They are displayed once a year on Good Friday.

In addition, it houses the tunic which to belonged to King Louis IX ( Saint Louis).

Notre Dame de Paris also houses the remains of a Chinese Saint:

Among the several chapels in the Basilica is the Chapel of the Holy Childhood, holding the relics of Saint Paul Chen, a young Chinese seminarian martyr who was a member of The French Holy Childhood Association in China, a Catholic children’s association for the benefit of foreign missions. It is one of four Pontifical Mission Societies and is dedicated to fostering children’s awareness of the missionary nature of the Church.

Paul was martyred for the faith on July 29, 1861. He was Beatified by Pius X in 1908 and his relics were transferred to Paris and placed here in the Chapel of the Holy Childhood on June 10, 1920. On 1 October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized him in St. Peter’s Square as part of the group of 120 Chinese martyrs.

Preparing Notre Dame de Paris for the Jubilee Year 2000:

The exterior was cleaned in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000 and now looks much like it did many centuries ago.  Just behind Notre Dame…underground…you will find The Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, a memorial to the 200,000 people (almost all of whom were Jews) who were deported from Vichy France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. It is fittingly on the site of a former morgue.  Rather sobering when you realize how many were deported and killed.

Notre Dame de Paris burns in 2019:

Tragically, on April 15, 2019, a fire broke out that destroyed the roof and much of the interior.  This loss of this landmark…both religious and secular…will be felt for many years, although rebuilding will probably start soon. Funds have poured in but the overall process will take years. 

The sacristy is where many of the Notre-Dame de Paris’s treasures are stored, and where priests prepare for celebrations and services. Located adjacent to the cathedral, it was built on the site of a chapel in 528 AD by King Childebert of the Merovingian dynasty  Fortunately, the relics and other items stored in the sacristy were largely undamaged by the fire.

Notre Dame de Paris after the fire:

Since the fire, the building has been closed to the public.  All Notre Dame Masses are now held at the Church of Saint Germain-l’Auxerrois, next to the Louvre

Nevertheless, volunteers from the CASA association, who have been showing the building for 50 years, continue their welcoming mission around the cathedral. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral and CASA volunteer guides are pleased to offer you free tours around the cathedral lasting about one hour.  Visits for individuals in different languages, are organized.   The meeting point is in the cathedral square, near the statue of Our Lady of Notre-Dame. You can find schedules for various languages on their website here .


Re-opening of Notre Dame Cathedral:

The reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is set for December 8, 2024. A Te Deum in celebration of the re-opening is planned for April 15, 2024, exactly 5 years after the fire. The supervision of the restoration is entrusted to the architect Philippe Villeneuve.  From what we have seen so far, you may be disappointed by some of the proposed architectural changes…especially the altar…of course, you may love it if you are in to ultra-modern utility furnishings….we are not.

Finding Notre Dame Cathedral:

We recommend “Little Black Book of Paris” and “Streetwise Maps” to help you find your way.

Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004

GPS coordinates: 48° 51′ 9.6120” N, 2° 20′ 57.4512” E

Tel: +33 (0)1 42 34 56 10

Click here for the official Notre Dame (Paris) website Be sure to check this out before your visit. Lots of really great information!

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