Notre Dame Cathedral, officially named Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris, France is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe. It was one of the first Gothic cathedrals and its complete construction spanned nearly 200 years until it was completed in 1345. With over 13 million visitors each year, Notre Dame de Paris is the most popular monument in France even beating out the Eiffel Tower. Although it was one of the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress, it was not originally designed to include it. As the walls grew in height during construction, they began to crack due to the stress. The cathedrals architects used the arched supports in response and continued the pattern as they built more. In the 1790’, the cathedral was a victim of the French Revolutionsand was desecrated with much of its religious imagery damaged or destroyed. Thankfully in the 19th century it was saved from complete destruction and restored by one of France’s most famous architects who was well known for his restoration work, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.
The interior of the cathedral is a majestic work of art with amazing stained glass windows, beautiful portals depicting biblical scenes and much more. Two of the three bells of the Notre Dame Cathedral, made famous in the book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, were destroyed during the French Revolution with the exception of the great bell Emmanuel, the masterpiece of the group which still rings today. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful sound instruments in Europe and has been marking the passage of time since the Middle Ages. A visit isn’t complete without going up to Notre Dame’s towers, taking you through all the upper parts of the western façade of the cathedral; there are 387 steps to the top so be in good shape for the climb. You can access the entrance of the tower outside the cathedral on the left hand side of the façade. The treasury of Notre Dame safeguards countless holy artifacts and conserves the religious objects, protecting their sacred nature. Another unique item to see when visiting Notre Dame is the archaeological Crypt of the Parvis de Notre Dame exhibition which protects ruins discovered during excavation in 1965 and takes visitors on a travel through to distant times with all kinds of interesting artifacts.
Notre Dame de Paris is open every day from 8 am until 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays) and access to it is free of charge during these hours. You can take advantage of the 35 minute audioguide available in 8 different languages at the entrance of the cathedral. During September and October at 9 pm every day except Friday, free night shows are available and feature amazing sounds and images projected on a transparent tulle screen hanging in the nave. Visiting the towers of Notre Dame will run about €8 for adults, €5 for ages 18-25 and seniors, and free for children under 18. A visit to the Treasury will run you about €3 for adults, €2 for ages 12-25 and seniors, and €1 ages 5-11. The cathedral is part of the Banks of the Seine UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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