The icons of Paris




Place du Parvis Notre-Dame M° Cité, St Michel Tel: 01 43 26 07 39 Open:
8.00 – 19.00 every day (paying tours take place 10.00 – 17.00) Constructed on a site that has been considered sacred since Roman times, the cathedral of Notre-Dame is the masterpiece of Gothic architecture in France. The first stone was laid by the bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, in 1163.

The work carried out by the best craftsmen and directed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil would not be completed until 1345. The master altar was erected in 1182; the chancel was completed in 1172; while the nave was only finished in the beginning of the 13th century. The cathedral was partly destroyed during the revolution but was restored in the 19th century by Viollet le Duc from 1841.

The construction of the spire and the sacristy were also resumed during this period.


The façade is divided into several stages which rise above each of the great doors (the door of Final Judgement, the door of the Virgin and the door of Saint Anne).

Just above can be seen the Gallery of Kings, composed of 28 statues of the kings of Juda and Israel, these were re-established by Viollet le Duc, having been destroyed during the revolution. Still further above is the rose, which measures 10 metres in diameter and is surrounded by three circles which, in turn, are divided in 12 and 24 parts.

Before the rose stands the statue of the Virgin Mary and child (the cathedral of Notre-Dame being dedicated to the mother of Christ). The great gallery is composed of arcades, which link the two towers. In the corners of the buttresses one finds statues of monsters and fantastic creatures which were designed by Viollet le Duc. The towers rise to a height of 69 metres. The south tower houses the great bell “Emmanuel” which weighs 13 tonnes, its hammer alone weighing 500kg.

This is the oldest bell in Notre-Dame, dating from 1631, and legend has it that when the bell was being cast, women threw their jewels into the molten iron – giving the bell its unique sound.


The cathedral of Notre-Dame, 130m long, 48m wide and 35m tall is the jewel in the crown of Gothic art. The central nave where the faithful congregate to attend services is surrounded by chapels (29 in total).




4 bd du Palais (1er) M° Cité Tel: 01 43 54 30 09
April – September: 9.30 – 18.30
October – March: 10.00 – 17.00 every day (payment on admission) The Sainte-Chapelle was commissioned by St. Louis to provide a home for the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. The construction of the chapel, begun in 1246 and finished 1248, is attributed to Pierre de Montreuil. The spire of the Sainte-Chapelle is not as high as that of Notre-Dame, but reaches nonetheless a height of 75 metres.

It measures 36m in length, 17m in width, 42m in height and comprises two separate chapels. The lower chapel was created for the servants of the crown, and the upper chapel reserved for the royal family. The windows, covering a surface of 622m 2 date from the 13th century and were restored in the 19th. They depict a series of scenes from the Old to the New Testament.




Location: the hill of Montmartre, in the north of Paris, rises to 129 metres above sea level. (metro: Anvers)

History: the place-name Montmartre comes from “the hill of the martyrs”, as traditionally it is believed that this is the site where Saint Denis – the first bishop of Paris (in the late 3rd century) – and his companions were martyred. Many saints have visited the hilltop [Saint Germain, Saint Clotilde, Saint Bernard, Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Vincent de Paul…] and of course Saint Ignace de Loyola and Saint Francis-Xavier, who founded the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits) there in 1534. A great Benedictine abbey covered most of the hill until the time of the French Revolution, when the abbots were guillotined and the abbey destroyed. A village called Saint Pierre subsisted there afterwards, but by the end of the 19th century, work had become scarce in this old plaster quarry. Historical context: In 1870: war broke out between France and Germany. The Council of the Vatican was broken up by the Pope who, no longer under the protection of French troops, considered himself a prisoner in the City of the Vatican. For the French, the war culminated in defeat, and part of the country was occupied by German troops. Alexendre Legentil and Hubert Rohault had a spiritual reaction to this turn of events, and vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart in penitence for sins committed, as for them the suffering of France had spiritual causes rather than political.

At the end of 1872 Cardinal Guibert, archbishop of Paris, gave his approval to the project and chose Montmartre as the site for the church. The following year he succeeded in having a law passed in the Assemblée Nationale that made the Basilica a public amenity, which allowed the site to be made ready for the construction of the church.

At the time, the construction of a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart was in contrast to a series of other basilicas that were being built during the same period: Lourdes, Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseille…

Finance: The necessary works were financed by donations from all over France – often modest donations – but the name of each contributor was carved into the stone of the church.

For more information : category "Monuments/Buildings".

Of course, Paris has many more monuments to offer, such as the Unmissable Attractions or the palaces. Enjoy your visit!