Notre Dame’s prominence comes from a single 300ft high spiral distinguishing it from the classical cathedral structures. Situated on the île de la Cité, which is an island in the middle of the Seine River, Notre-Dame sits at the heart of Paris.
Construction of the cathedral was a long endeavour, which began in 1163 and was ordered by Bishop Maurice de Sully. Several houses and a church had to be taken down in order to accommodate the grand structure and a new road was created just to transport the construction materials.
The cathedral consists of two parts. The western side is front facing with two large bell towers and the eastern side is the main hall and choir. Visitors to the cathedral will pass through the doors on the western side. The bishop Maurice de Sully didn’t see the completion of the cathedral and died before the western side was completed. The cathedral was completed in 1345, a 180 year period.
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
Unique Things to See and Do in/near Notre Dame Cathedral
- Visit the Musee du Louvre
- Admire the Place Saint-Michel
- Find the centre of Paris at 0Km
- See the stunning stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle
- Check out the Crypt in Notre Dame
- See the Love Locks on the bridge near Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral’s Features
One of the iconic sounds of Paris are the bells of Notre Dame chiming four times a day, and if you are fortunate enough to be there on a holiday, such as All Saints Day, you’ll hear the biggest and most impressive bell of them all, Grande Emmanuel. A 13-ton bell! In total there are 10 bells.
When you first walk up to the Cathedral, you will face the Cathedral Facade with the portals and doorways. Each one of the three portals represents different aspects of the Bible and Christian history. Above them are the 28 statues that represent kings, and above them, in the centre, is the virgin Mary with a large rose representing her halo.
While you are outside on the eastern side, notice the gargoyles on the exterior. These not only provide protection from evil spirits, they also have a practical function as drainage. The statues are hollowed out allowing water to pass through them and exiting through the mouths of the gargoyles.
Another exterior feature, unique to Notre Dame are the flying buttresses, which are archways extending from the sides, forming structural support to the main building. Notre Dame was one of the first buildings to use the flying buttress.
One last feature to mention are the stained glass windows. The vivid colours and intricacy of them is breathtaking. There are three rosettes, and eighty-four panes, all depicting different aspects of Christianity, and they act as a storybook. You can see saints, the 12 Apostles, martyrs, and angels. These windows date back to the 12th century, but some have been damaged over the years. With some of the restoration efforts the panes have shifted spots from their original location.
There are so many details within the Cathedral that we can’t list them all, but we highly encourage you take a tour and learn what it is that you are witnessing.
Getting to Notre Dame Cathedral
The Cathedral is located on the île de la Cité, which is one of the two natural islands remaining in the Seine River. Presumably, you’ll be travelling to Notre Dame by public transit, metro, or walking. The stops are Cité (metro 4) or Saint Michel-Notre Dame (RER B & C).
Did you know…?
There are 387 steps to the top of one of the twin towers.
Did you ALSO know…?
The Cathedral has a significant relic, the Crown of Thorns, which is only brought out at Easter.
Ready to plan your visit to Paris? Check out these popular guides and trips.