Catherals We Are Visiting


Notre Dame Cathedral

Construction of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII, and Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone. Construction was completed roughly 200 years later in about 1345.

The choir was completed in 1182; the nave in 1208, and the west front and towers circa 1225-1250. A series of chapels were added to the nave during the period 1235-50, and during 1296-1330 to the apse (Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy). The transept crossings were build in 1250-67 by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil (also the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle). It was essentially completed according to the original plans.

The reigns of Louis XIV (end of the 17th century) and Louis XV saw significant alterations including the destruction of tombs and stained glass. At the end of the 18th century, during the Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. Only the great bells avoided being melted down, and the Cathedral was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and to the cult of the Supreme being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

After falling into disrepair, a restoration program was carried out in 1845. This program lasted 23 years, and included the construction of the spire and the sacristy.

During the Commune of 1871, the Cathedral was nearly burned by the Communards - and some accounts suggest that indeed a huge mound of chairs was set on fire in its interior. Whatever happened, the Notre Dame survived the Commune essentially unscathed.

Now in 1991, a 10 year program of general maintenance and restoration has begun, and sections of the structure are likely to be shrouded in scaffolds for the foreseeable future.

Sacre Coeur
Situated at the very top of the Montmartre Hill in Paris, the Sacre Coeur was built at the end of the 19th century from contributions taken from Parisian Catholics as an act of contrition after the humiliating Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Construction began in 1874, and was finished in 1914, but the German invasion prevented its consecration until 1919, when France was victorious.

Its famous white architecture dominates the city, and offers a wonderful view. The nearby streets of Montmarte are full of artists and restaurants.

Sacré-Cœur is built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon (Seine-et-Marne), France. This stone constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.

The basilica complex includes a garden for meditation, with a fountain. The top of the dome is open to tourists and affords a spectacular panoramic view of the city of Paris, which is mostly to the south of the basilica.

The interior of the church contains one of the worlds largest mosaics, entitled Christ in Majesty, which depicts Christ with outstretched arms.

The nearby bell tower contains the “Savoyarde”. Cast in Annecy in 1895, it is one of the worlds heaviest at 19 tons.

The Sacré Coeur in figures:
- Ovoid Dome is the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
- The bell tower is 83 meters high and contains one of the heaviest bells in the world.
- The bell itself weighs 18.5 tons and the clapper 850 kg.


The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres), located about 50 miles from Paris, is considered one of the finest examples in all France of the "Gothic" style of architecture.

Construction of a new building on the Romanesque foundations was begun in 1145, but a fire in 1194 destroyed all but the west front of the cathedral (and much of the town), so that part is in the "early Gothic" style. The body of the cathedral was rebuilt between 1194 and 1220, a remarkably short span for medieval cathedrals. It has a ground area of 117,058 square feet.

Chartres is a cathedral that inspires superlatives, and there are few architectural historians who have not waxed lyrical about its soaring aisles and delicate carving. These tributes are richly deserved, for Chartres is truly one of the greatest of all French Gothic cathedrals. From a distance it seems to hover in mid-air above waving fields of wheat, and it is only when the visitor draws closer that the city comes into view, clustering around the hill on which the cathedral stands. Its two contrasting spires — one, a 349 foot plain pyramid dating from the 1140s, and the other a 377 foot tall early 16th century Flamboyant spire on top of an older tower — soar upwards over the pale green roof, while all around the outside are complex flying buttresses.

According to legend, since 876 the Cathedral has housed a tunic that had belonged to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sancta Camisia. The relic had supposedly been given to the Cathedral by Charlemagne who received it as a gift during a crusade in Jerusalem. In fact, the relic was a gift from Charles the Bald and it has been asserted that the fabric came from Syria and that it had been woven during the first century AD. For hundreds of years, Chartres has been a very important Marian pilgrimage center, and today the faithful still come from the world over to honour the relic.

The church was primarily a church for pilgrimage in the 12th century. The fairs that were held in the surrounding area of the cathedral were attended by many of the pilgrims who came to see the cloak of the Virgin, for they coincided with the feast days of the Virgin Mary.

Even the elegance of the exterior does not prepare the visitor for the wonders that lie within. The spacious nave stands 121 feet high, and there is an unbroken view from the western end right along to the magnificent dome of the apse in the east. Clustered columns rise dramatically from plain bases to the high pointed arches of the ceiling, directing the eye to the massive clerestory windows in the apse.

Everywhere vivid colour splashes on to the floor from the superb stained glass windows. Dating from the early 13th century, the glass largely escaped harm during the religious wars of the 16th century; it is said to constitute one of the most complete collections of medieval stained glass in the world, despite “modernization” in 1753 when some of it was removed by the clearly well-intentioned but misguided clergy. From the original 186 stained-glass windows, 152 have survived. The stained glass windows are particularly renowned for their vivid blue colour, especially a representation of the Madonna and Child. During the second World War, most of the stained glass was removed from the cathedral, and stored in the surrounding countryside for protection from German bombers. At the close of the war, the windows were taken out of hiding and replaced.

On the doors and porches, medieval carvings of statues holding swords, crosses, books, and trade tools parade around the portals, their expressions as clear today as when first carved 700 years ago. The sculptures on the west façade depict Christ's ascension into heaven, episode from his life, saints, apostles, Christ in the lap of Mary, and other religious scenes. Below the religious figures are statues of kings and queens, which is the reason why this entrance is known as the 'royal' portal. While these figures are based on figures from the Old Testament, they were also regarded as images of current kings and queens when they were constructed. The symbolism of showing royalty displayed slightly lower than the religious sculptures, but still very close, implies the relationship between the kings and God. It is a way of displaying the authority of royalty, showing them so close to figures of Christ, it gives the impression they have been ordained and put in place by God. Sculptures of the Seven Liberal Arts appeared in the archivolt of the right bay of the Royal Portal, which represented the school at Chartres.

The Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a basilica in Lyon. Built between 1872 and 1896, its unusual design draws from a variety of architectural influences. It features fine mosaics, superb stained glass, and a crypt of Saint-Joseph. Perched atop the Fourviere hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city and may be seen from many vantage points. At certain times, members of the public may access the basilica's northern tower for a spectacular 180-degree view of Lyon and its suburbs.

Saint Francois Church

Le Puy-
The cathedral of Notre Dame in Le Puy located on Mt. Corneille is one of Europe's oldest, most famous, and most beautiful pilgrimage shrines. Much visited during medieval times by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela and highly venerated for its Black Madonna statue, it's location's use as a sacred place has its roots in prehistoric times.

Prior to the arrival of Christianity, an enormous dolmen, or single standing stone, stood atop the sacred hill. Nothing is known of the people who erected this stone nor of the manner in which it was used, yet the mysterious stone was to play a decisive role in the development of Le Puy as a Christian pilgrimage site.

Sometime between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, a local woman suffering from an incurable disease had visions of Mary. In her visions she received instructions to climb Mt. Corneille, where she would be cured by the simple act of sitting on the great stone. Following this advice, the woman was miraculously cured of her ailment.

Appearing to the woman a second time, Mary gave instructions that the local bishop should be told to build a church on the hill. According to legend, when the bishop climbed the hill, he found the ground covered in deep snow even though it was the middle of July. A lone deer walked through the snow, tracing the ground plan of the cathedral that was to be built.

Convinced by these miracles of the authenticity of Mary's wishes, the bishop completed construction of the church by AD 430. Despite ecclesiastical pressures, which sought to combat the survival of pagan religious practices, the great dolmen was left standing in the center of the Christian sanctuary and was consecrated as the Throne of Mary. By the eighth century, however, the pagan stone, popularly known as the "stone of visions," was taken down and broken up. Its pieces were incorporated into the floor of a particular section of the church that came to be called the Chambre Angelique, or the "angels chamber."

Most of these early structures disappeared and were replaced by the current basilica, a composite construction dating from the 5th to 12th centuries AD. While primarily an example of Romanesque architecture, the massive cathedral of Notre Dame shows strong Byzantine and Arabic influences in both its construction and decoration.

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