When visiting European cities, generally speaking, you’re never quite far from a historical church. These things were built to last and last, they did. It is, therefore, easy to get church-fatigue. So it’s paramount to pick your churches carefully in order not to burn out too quickly. Whenever I’m in Paris, there are a few churches that I don’t mind seeing again because I quite like them. Here are three, wonderful for their own unique reason, that you should see when you’re in Paris:
Notre-Dame de Paris is an old Roman Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris. It’s probably France’s most famous religious building. Notre-Dame was built between the years 1163 and 1345. Today, it is a fantastic place to visit for its historical value. If Catholic relics are your thing, Notre-Dame holds three important crucifixion related relics: the Crown of Thorns, a piece of the Cross, and one of the nails apparently used in Jesus’ crucifixion. If architecture is your thing, Notre-Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses as an architectural feature (to keep the building from buckling under its weight). If gargoyles are what make you happy, you’re also in luck – there are tons here. Happy hunting for the famous one, where the gargoyle is contemplating the view of the city! Plan your visit carefully if you want to go up in the viewing tower. You and a million other tourists want to do the same thing!
Did you know? The statues, gargoyles, and exterior of this building once were painted. Apparently, Notre-Dame used to be quite brightly coloured!
Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a Roman Catholic church located in the Montmartre area of Paris. It sits like a giant white cake topper on the highest point in all of Paris. Sacré-Cœur was built between 1875 and 1914, so it is relatively new. What I love about this church is its architecture, done in the Romano-Byzantine style – it’s just so different from many of the other Parisian churches, especially the Gothic ones. Sacré-Cœur is built from travertine, mined in the Seine-et-Marne department of France. Inside, the thing to see is the giant mosaic called “Christ in Majesty”, one of the largest in the world. However, inside, you will also run into three words, ones that are the absolute bane of my existence: Photography Not Allowed. I have to bite back the Wail of Doom every time I see those words…
Did you know? The travertine with which the church is built, when it comes into contact with water, it exudes calcite. This enables the stone to remain white despite pollution and weather damage!
Sainte-Chapelle is a little chapel that has a not so little connection – it’s royal. It was commissioned by King Louis IX to hold his collection of Roman Catholic relics. It was built between 1239 and 1248 and is located on the Île de la Cité of Paris. Today, it is famous for having one of the most extensive collections of 13th century stained glass in the world. The glass here is gorgeous. Colourful, delicate, artistic. The windows are massive and one can only boggle at the cost this would have incurred but also, one can only admire the sheer talent required to have created this piece of art. Of course, being a chapel, the windows display various Biblical scenes. The windows are hard to photograph because of the amount of tourists in your way and because the lighting isn’t that great – take a good camera if you want better photos than mine. There are also many stone carvings that are beautiful in their own right, but man, the glass really does take centre stage here.
Did you know? Apparently, during the French Revolution, the chapel was made into administrative offices. The windows were hidden behind by giant filing cabinets and that is what probably saved the glass from vandalism during the Revolution!
Have you visited any of these three churches? What churches do you recommend in Paris?