Notre Dame and nearby attractions. (4th
This quaint island offers great views of the Seine as it wanders through
Paris. In addition you will find some of the most historic attractions
Paris has to offer in this compact section of the city, but Notre Dame is by
far the most popular, as well as the most interesting.
(4th arrondissement) (IC) -
This stunning cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in Paris,
with over twenty million visitors a year. In 2013 Notre Dame
celebrates its 850th birthday (March 23) with nine new bronze bells and one
original bell. The new bells replace nine of the ten originals
that were melted down and used to make cannons during the French Revolution.
The new bronze bells were cast in Normandy using techniques from the Middle
Ages. We hope they receive the Hunchback's approval.
The grand Cathedral of Our Lady of
Paris was commissioned by Bishop Maurice de Sully in 1160 and was a work in progress over
several centuries. After the start of
the French Revolution in 1789, Notre Dame was a target of the
Parisian revolutionaries because of the favored relationship that had existed between the Catholic Church and the
The Cathedral's soaring spire, the statues from the Gallery of
the Kings and the statues at all major portals were destroyed by angry
crowds in their revolutionary fervor. In addition, for a period of
time, the cathedral became
the property of the civil authorities.
Notre Dame was given back to the Catholic Church during Napoleon's reign in
1802 and it was during the remainder of the century that the
church was restored to its former glory, although significant changes were
made to its exterior design reflecting architectural tastes of the
time. Notre Dame is still in use as the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Paris.
Notre Dame is an exceptionally impressive cathedral. Both the exterior and the interior of Notre Dame are endowed with
numerous spectacular features, so do not make your visit a quick walk-by or you
will miss many of the cathedral's noted features.
that the unique look of the cathedral's facade was heavily influenced by a restoration in
Most travelers approach Notre Dame from the West Facade, shown above.
The two towers date from the mid-13th century and rise over 200 feet (63
meters) from the ground. The facade is famous for its simplicity in
integrating a number of outstanding features, principally the large Rose
Window (below left) that forms a halo surrounding a statue of the
Blessed Virgin, holding the infant Jesus, while she is in conversation with two
Below the Rose Window is the Gallery of Kings, a series of 28 figures from the Bible,
although the figures were actually rendered to represent the Kings of France.
Below the Gallery are three entrance
portals, with the center portal, known as Last Judgment Portal (photo above-right)
taller than the other two. Each portal is adorned with a number of impressive
sculptures, although the Portal to the Virgin on the left (north) is the
popular with tourists.
Dame was one of first great cathedrals to employ flying buttresses. These
wing-like elevated arches transferred the load from the vault of the
cathedral to a buttress (or pier) outside the building proper.
This architectural innovation allowed the construction of taller, lighter structures
with less massive walls. In addition, the weight transfer allowed the
creation of openings in exterior walls for large windows, which, without
the presence of the flying buttresses, would have made the walls too weak to
support the load. The beautiful stained glass windows at Notre Dame
would not have been possible without this architectural innovation.
Notre Dame's flying buttresses can be seen
along the east end of the cathedral, as shown in the see photo at the top-left of
The Cathedral's stained glass is a treasure, especially the West Rose
Window (above the entrance) and the larger Rose Windows in the North
and South Portals. Some of the glass in
these frames and most of the designs are original and date from the early
Several of Notre Dame's precious liturgical objects can be viewed in the
Cathedral's Treasury in the sacristy for a modest fee.
If you have the stamina and interest, you can climb to the top of Notre Dame
for a grand view of Paris that you will share with fearsome gargoyles.
(Although we have never seen Victor Hugo's Hunchback there, were are sure he
must be skulking around somewhere close by.) The walk is strenuous,
requiring ascent of almost 400 steps and there is not an elevator. The
Tower is available for visiting from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in winter
and one hour later in spring and summer. The last access is 45 minutes
before closing and the Tower itself is closed on January 1, May 1 and
December 25. A fee is required for entrance to the tower.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame is open all year from 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and 30
minutes later on Saturday and Sunday. Access is free, but you are
requested to be mindful of the religious services that may be held during your visit.
There were at least three precursor churches to Notre Dame and other
buildings in the immediate area that were destroyed or built over as
work on the master cathedral continued. Down the street named Parvis Notre
Dame (west - from the Cathedral ) at number 7 is the Archaeological
Crypt of Notre Dame. Excavations during the last century
revealed incredible details about the Île de la Cité, including a bathhouse,
roman wall and other interesting antiquities. The Crypt is open daily
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except for Sundays, Mondays and some holidays.
A fee is required for admission.
For more information on visiting and to view some incredible 360°
views, see the official website of the
The story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is one that has attracted a
world-wide following. It is the tale of the unjust persecution of a
deaf, deformed man who was taken advantage of by his caretaker. The
masterful story of the Hunchback is one
reason that so many visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.
Victor Hugo wrote the novel the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" in the early
19th century. The story centers on three characters: the Hunchback (Quasimodo), an
archdeacon of Notre Dame named Frollo (who had "adopted
Quasimodo) and a beautiful Gypsy named Esmeralda.
Quasimodo, a recluse, is the bell ringer at Notre Dame and lives in the bell
tower. He is uncomfortable with the outside world whose inhabitants ridicule
him because of his deformity and deafness.
Frollo, the cleric, is "attracted" to Esmeralda (as is the Hunchback) and
Hunchback to kidnap Esmeralda. The kidnapping leads to several other adventures and one
event in particular
that threatens the life of Esmeralda, whom the Hunchback has come to love.
Esmeralda is accused of murdering Phoebus, the man she loved, although
was actually committed by the Frollo who was jealous of Phoebus. Frollo,
however, lies and implicates Esmeralda who is arrested for the crime and sentenced to death by hanging.
Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda from prison and takes her to the Notre Dame
Cathedral, knowing that she can seek asylum there from the civil charges. However, Frollo lures the Hunchback from the Cathedral,
the authorities to capture and execute Esmeralda. The Hunchback becomes enraged
at this injustice and
throws the evil Frollo from the Notre Dame Bell Tower. Quasimodo then
Esmeralda's body, finds it in the cemetery and grieves for her, starving himself to
death in the process.
To read about the other attractions on the Île
de la Cité ( the Palais de Justice, the
Conciergerie, Sainte Chapelle and the Pont Neuf Bridge) click
here for the next page in our Paris Guide.
Or- explore our menu on the right to find other
types of sightseeing in Paris.
Or - If you want to find out about a specific attraction
and know its name, look for it in our
Index of the Best Places To Visit In Paris.
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.