The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is a famous monument of Gothic architecture, a location featured in a famous book and musical, and just a beautiful place. It was seriously damaged in a fire on April 15, 2019. Fortunately, the loss of art objects is not as great as we all feared! Nevertheless, the damage was severe enough that the Cathedral will be closed for reconstruction work during the next few years.
So if Notre Dame is important to you, what should you see in Paris during the restoration? No matter why you’re interested, we have six locations that can offer many similar opportunities.
View stained glass at Saint-Chapelle
If you’re interested in stained glass, visit Saint-Chapelle. King Louis the Saint built this chapel to store the great Christian relics: the Crown of Thorns and the Nail of the Crucifixion. Louis practically gave his kingdom for the relics, and he didn’t skimp on the chapel to store them either. The stained glass windows of Saint-Chapelle are considered the most beautiful in Paris.
Saint-Chapelle is located a just stone’s throw from Notre Dame. It is better to buy tickets in advance, and be prepared for queues and security checks. The chapel is located on the territory of the current Palace of Justice.
Visit Little Notre Dame
If you love the Gothic architecture, visit Saint-Merry or “little Notre Dame.” This church was built in the Flamboyant Gothic style, and the architects used the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris as a model. Saint-Merry has exactly the same building plan as Notre-Dame. Saint-Merry is 15-20 minutes on foot from the island of Cité, so the canons of the “big” cathedral served Saint-Merry too. From here, the nickname “little Notre Dame” appeared.
Saint-Merry is located in the heart of the Châtelet quarter, a 5-minute walk from the Pompidou Center, at rue Saint-Martin and de la Verrerie. The back of Saint-Merry overlooks the Stravinsky Fountain.
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Visit other royal places
The kings of France were not bound to Notre Dame. The royal chapel was actually Saint-Chapelle, the coronation took place in the Cathedral of Reims, and the kings of France were buried in the Abbey of St. Denis. According to legend, the abbey was built on the place of the tomb of St. Dionysius of Paris, one of the patrons of the city. A part of the saint’s relics was even hidden in the cock vane that crowned the spire of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.
In the Saint-Denis Abbey, you can see the sculptural tombs of the French kings, see the tomb of Saint Denis, and admire the wonderful stained-glass windows. The church is located in the northern suburb of Paris, so the easiest way to get there is to take the 13th subway line to the Basilique St Denis station.
Notre Dame de Reims is a little younger than the Parisian Notre Dame, but its Gothic architecture is especially bright. You can get there easily: the train to Reims takes less than one hour. You can also book a one-day excursion to see the sights of Reims. In addition to the magnificent cathedral, there are many famous champagne houses. Check out the offer on this link.
Find inspiration at the Pantheon
We invite you to visit the Pantheon, the tomb of the great men of France. Along with the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, the Pantheon is connected with the relics of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. According to legend, a part of those relics, as well as a part of the relics of St. Denis and a part of the Crown of Thorns, were placed in a cock vane on top of the Notre Dame spire. After the fire, the figure of the rooster was found in the wreckage of the spire, but the relics have disappeared.
But wait: the Pantheon and St. Genevieve? Where is the connection? The building of the modern Pantheon was originally built to be the new Church of St. Genevieve. Parisians were very fond of their patron saint, and in the 18th century began to build a new, grandiose temple in her honor. As always, the construction took a long time. When the French Revolution began, the building was complete, but not yet consecrated. The revolutionaries decided to call it the Pantheon of Great Men or the Temple of the Republic.
You will find the Pantheon in the 5th district of Paris, in the Latin Quarter. In addition to the fact that it is just a magnificent monumental building, it keeps the remains of great scientists, writers, politicians.
Pray at Sacré-Coeur
The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is one of the most revered Catholic churches in France. Daily services were held there, along with Christmas and Easter masses, and the Crown of Thorns was kept there. But there is another deeply revered church in Paris as well: the Basilica of the Holy Heart or Sacré-Coeur. With the permission of the Archbishop of Paris, it was Sacré-Coeur that began to ring the bells, calling parishioners to service on the night of the fire in Notre Dame.
From a more secular perspective, Sacré-Coeur is the second most visited church in Paris after Notre Dame. In addition, the observation deck of Sacré-Coeur offers a magnificent view of Paris.
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Visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris
Paris Notre Dame will be open to the public during the restoration work! Services are already being held, but so far without the participation of parishioners. They’ve promised to erect a temporary building made of wood on the square in front of Notre Dame. It will serve as a symbol of the cathedral during the reconstruction, which tourists and pilgrims will be able to visit. According to the rector of Notre Dame, this temporary church will hold services and will confessionals for pilgrims, and will also have a souvenir store for tourists. While we are still waiting for this construction, you can follow the progress at the Cathedral’s Instagram (@notredamedeparis).
Let’s not be discouraged! This is not the first time that Notre Dame de Paris had a fire, and the collapsed spire was relatively new, erected in the 19th century. The Cathedral will be restored to its best. In the meantime, we can all enjoy the other beautiful churches of Paris.
Enjoy your trip!