It is with great sadness that we have to say that the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is not accessible to tourists, worshipers and pilgrims at present, due to the devastating fire that occurred on the evening of 15th April 2019, which you can read more about on the history of Notre Dame and a little below. Yet you will be pleased to know that this famous monument and edifice is going to be rebuilt and fully restored over the next few years, meaning that it will still be around for future generations to enjoy.
Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
The Ile de la Cite is the very heart of Paris and is an island that lies in the middle of the River Seine where people have resided for centuries, and it is here that you will find the famous cathedral in Paris called the Notre Dame de Paris.
This impressive religious building in Paris is often just referred to as Notre Dame Cathedral, even though there are many churches called Notre Dame through all of France and this is because they are dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the name translates to Our Lady.
You will find that this Cathedral is located close to the Hotel Dieu and the Police headquarters or in French, the Prefecture de Police, plus is within walking distance of the La Conciergerie which was originally a royal Palace that turned into a prison and it is here that you can have tours and get to see a reconstruction of where Marie Antoinette was held during the French Revolution prior to being send to her death via the guillotine. This building is also linked with the Sainte Chapelle chapel that you can also visit on the island very close to Notre Dame Cathedral.
And just the Ile de la Cite island is a must see place to visit when you are on holiday in Paris, even if you are not religious, due to its rich history and the architecture that you will be able to discover at these fabulous monuments in Paris.
The Ile de la Cite has been occupied for many, many centuries and the original name was called Lutitia, even before the city of Paris was even evolving and therefore this is why it is classed as the historical part of Paris.
Also you will be able to see a large square in front of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral where there are now plaques commemorating the brave French resistance fighters that fought off the German attack for over four days during World War II.
In addition, the founder of the Michelin tyre business, called Andre Michelin, placed a plaque in the square, and it is from this very plaque that all distances in France are measured, as this spot is classed as point zero, which is quite fitting considering the rich history of this island.
About Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Now getting back to the Notre Dame de Paris, this was one of the very first Gothic Cathedrals and is classified as one of the most impressive and finest examples of Gothic architecture in France, which has been seeing millions of visitors each year, up until a devastating fire in April 2019 that means this historical church has got to be not only restored, but completely rebuilt in parts.
There are so many facts and such a rich history that Notre Dame Cathedral was one of the very first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress system, and even though this was not in the original design, the flying buttresses can be seen around the choir and the nave and the history of the building of the Notre Dame de Paris spans many, decades, with the history going on for centuries.
The Notre Dame Cathedral was actually the largest religious building in the West until the Amiens Cathedral was built in the 13th century and can still be seen today within the Picardy region of France.
Also the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris contains impressive stained glass and sculptures that have a heavier influence on naturalism rather than the earlier Romanesque style of architecture and it is actually the largest church in Paris.
It was in the 1200s that work began on the Western facade of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, but over its history there has been many different architects that have worked on this cathedral, purely because it took so long to build, and even the history of the West facade of Notre Dame is fascinating in itself. But because of this, you will see today that the three large portals are actually slightly different in their styles and even their height.
And when you visit this Cathedral you can still admire the gargoyles, statues such as that of Saint Denis along with the stained glass windows, like the famous Rose Window, and some of these date back to Medieval times, plus the building of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, along with the restoration works conducted by Viollet-Le-Duc is fascinating in itself, and provides a greater insight as to how it has become such a famous tourist attraction in Paris.
But there is still far more to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris that can be discovered, especially when you enter inside, just like the impressive Great Organ and the Choir Organ, the crown of light located above the main alter, the 15th century Bell called the Emmanuel Bell, paintings within the Nave that date from the 1600s plus there are over thirty different sculptures.
In addition to these, you have the treasury that holds religious objects, many of which are used in specific services or ceremonies. And the holiest possessions of the Notre Dame de Paris are the Holy Relics of the Passion of the Christ that were acquired by Saint Louis, like The Crown of Thorns and these were originally held at the Sainte Chapelle chapel by La Conciergerie up until the French Revolution.
Thankfully though, even though parts of the fabulous Notre Dame Cathedral were completely destroyed in 2019, like the historical spire and its roof, many of the artefacts and relics were saved from destruction and moved to the Paris City Hall for safety, which included the Crown of Thorns, before it will be moved again to a temporary location, which seems likely to be The Louvre Museum.
Also, the Te Deum Mass has been sung at the Notre Dame de Paris ever since the middle of the 1400s, plus there was always a major funeral service conducted at this cathedral that preceded the burials of the Kings of France, where they were laid to rest in the Saint Denis Basilica on the outskirts of Paris.
Access to Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Incredibly, there are around 13 million people from around the world that visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris every year, whether it be as a tourist on holiday in Paris or people on a pilgrimage and in fact, this church has more visitors than even the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre Museum!
One of the reasons it has become so famous is due to the novel called the Hunchback of Notre Dame that was produced in the 1830s by Victor Hugo, however, the other reason is of course through the history of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral and the building itself.
The Notre Dame de Paris was open every day of the year and is still a major place of worship that conducts five services every day of the week, bar on a Sunday when there are seven. Yet with this in mind, all visitors that enter the church must remain silent so that mass and the services at the Notre Dame Cathedral can proceed without disturbance.
The Notre Dame Cathedral was opened every day of the year from 8am through to 6.45pm, however, on a Saturday and Sunday it remained open until 7.15pm being free to enter for everyone, although as we mentioned earlier, this is not possible at present due to the disastrous fire that took place on 15th April 2019, which saw the historical tower and roof collapse.
With this in mind, a major campaign has been launched to get funds for rebuilding this iconic monument and once completed you will be able to experience the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral to the same extent once more.
There was a boutique and religious articles sales counter that is located on the side of the nave, and this was open every day from 9.30am through to 6.30pm where you could purchase many different items such as charms, necklaces, books, postcards, rosaries and much more, although the Notre Dame de Paris does now have an online store.
You can meet with a priest for spiritual counselling or for a sacrament of pardon and this is available every day from 10am through to 12.30 pm and from 3pm up until at least 6pm, plus this service is available in French, German, English, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Chinese.
The cathedral Treasury was also open every day and on a Monday to Friday it opened from 9.30am through to 6pm, but on a Saturday it opened for half an hour longer, however on a Sunday, the treasury was only open from 1.30pm through to 6.30pm. But we would like to point out that there was a charge to enter the treasury.
Yet, during the year, there are also night shows conducted at the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral that are literally like an opera held within the cathedral, which is projected on to an extremely large transparent fabric screen. They normally start at around 9pm, are held on set days and last around one hour and these are also free, but a donation to supporting the maintenance of the cathedral is welcomed and any donations are to be greatly received at present to help towards the rebuilding of this famous monument.
Plus there is a 35 minute audio guide available in eight different languages that you can obtain from the reception, but there are also free guided tours of Notre Dame Cathedral along with Tours of the Towers, which are run by the National Monuments Centre in Paris.
You can also visit the Archaeological Crypt that is located underneath the Parvis of the Cathedral, which is linked with the Musee Carnavalet and shows the ruins of ancient Paris that were discovered during excavations.
Open all year round, the Notre Dame de Paris is one of the must see places to visit when you are on holiday in Paris, whether it is for pilgrimage or just as a tourist, and this has become one of the most famous landmarks in Paris that has so much to offer, even if you are not religious.
Visiting Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
So as we have mentioned previously, even though you can still visit the cathedral and see the outside such as its two famous towers, the inside is not accessible at present and prior there were only parts of the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral that were accessible to reduced-mobility individuals, which amounted to around two thirds of the entire historical monument in Paris and these included the nave, side aisles and transept.
However, there were three steps to access the choir and the Treasury and there is also a small step at the entrance portals in which to gain access to the main floor, yet the tower visit is only accessible to those that are able bodied, as you have to negotiate over 300 steps.
The Notre Dame Cathedral can be reached via many different means of transport in Paris such as the Metro on on line 4 that stops at the Cite station or the Saint-Michel station. The Hotel de Ville stop is the next nearest Metro station on either Line 1 or line 11.
If you are arriving in Paris via the RER, then you would need the Saint-Michel - Notre Dame stop on RER lines B or C.
There are several different bus stops located near to the cathedral including Cite - Parvis Notre Dame stop on line 47, which is also serviced by the Balabus or the stop called Cite - Palais de Justice on line 21, 38, 85 and 96.
In addition to these, you have the Car Rouges now called Big Bus Paris tour buses that stops opposite 19 Rue d’Arcole, the Batobus Water bus that stops on the quay opposite the Ile de la Cite island and the L’Open Tour Buses, which stop at the Prefecture de Police at 6 Rue de la Cite and also at 4 Rue du Petit-Pont.