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La Tour Eiffel
Le Panthéon
Arc de Triomphe

Le Sacré Coeur
La Sainte Chapelle
Notre Dame


Notre Dame

Proceeded by a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter, a Christian basilica, and a Romanesque church, construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone. The idea to replace the Romanesque church occupying the site - the Cathedral of St. Etienne (founded by Childebert in 528) - was that of Bishop Maurice de Sully (who died in 1196). (Some accounts claim that there were two churches existing on the site, one to the Virgin Mary, the other to St. Stephen.) Construction was completed roughly 200 years later in about 1345.

The choir was completed in 1182; the nave in 1208, and the west front and towers circa 1225-1250. A series of chapels were added to the nave during the period 1235-50, and during 1296-1330 to the apse (Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy). The transept crossings were build in 1250-67 by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil (also the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle). It was essentially completed according to the original plans.

The reigns of Louis XIV (end of the 17th century) and Louis XV saw significant alterations including the destruction of tombs, and stained glass. At the end of the 18th century, during the Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. Only the great bells avoided being melted down, and the Cathedral was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and to the cult of the Supreme being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

After falling into disrepair, a restoration program overseen by Lassus (died 1857) and Viollet-le-Duc, was carried out in 1845. This program lasted 23 years, and included the construction of the spire (see image) and the sacristy.

During the Commune of 1871, the Cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards - and some accounts suggest that indeed a huge mound of chairs was set on fire in its interior. Whatever happened, the Notre Dame survived the Commune essentially unscathed.

Now in 1991, a 10 year program of general maintenance and restoration has begun, and sections of the structure are likely to be shrouded in scaffolds for the foreseeable future.

During its history, Notre Dame has been the site of numerous official and other ceremonial occasions. These include:

  • 1239; The Crown of Thorns placed in the Cathedral by St. Louis during the construction of Sainte-Chapelle.
  • 1302; Philip the Fair opens the first States General here.
  • 1430; Henri VI of England is crowned here.
    Mary Stuart becomes Queen of France after her marriage to François II, and is crowned here.
  • 1572; Marguerite of Valoi is married to the Huguenot Henri of Navarre here.
  • 2 December 1804; After the anointing by Pius VII, Napoléon seizes the crown from the pontiff and crowns first himself, then Josephine.
  • 26 August 1944; The Te Deum Mass celebrates the liberation of Paris. (According to some accounts the Mass was interrupted by snipping from both the internal and external galleries.)
  • 12 November 1970; The Requiem Mass of General de Gaulle is held here.
  • 31 May 1980; After the Magnificat of this day, Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass on the parvis in front of the Cathedral

Practical information

Metro: Cité
RER: Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint Michel-Notre Dame
6, Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame
75004 Paris
Tél. :

Open: Notre Dame: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed on Saturday: 12.30 p.m.-2 p.m.; Treasure: 9.30-11.45 a.m./12.30-5.30 p.m.; Saturday: 9.30-11.45 a.m./2-5.30 p.m.
Entrance fees
Standard : 35,00 FF
Special rates : 23,00 FF
for the visit of the towers(5,34 and 3,51 euros).
(Admission to the cathedral is free)

Closed: Treasure: Sunday, Christian feast days.


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