Cathédrale Notre Dame
Galerie du Vitrail Claude Barre
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place Notre Dame · interesting places nearby
Cathédrale Notre Dame information
The largest Gothic cathedral in France (it's 145m long) and a Unesco World Heritage Site, this magnificent structure was begun in 1220 to house the skull of St John the Baptist . Architecture connoisseurs rave about the soaring Gothic arches (42.3m high over the transept), unity of style and immense interior, but for locals the highlight is the 17th-century statue known as the Ange Pleureur (Crying Angel), in the ambulatory directly behind the over-the-top Baroque high altar.
Note that the skull of St John the Baptist is sometimes exposed – framed in gold and jewels – in the northern outer wall of the ambulatory.
The octagonal, 234m-long labyrinth on the black-and-white floor of the nave is easy to miss as the soaring vaults draw the eye upward. Plaques in the south transept arm honour American, Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand soldiers who perished in WWI.
To get a sense of what you're seeing, it's worth hiring a one-hour audioguide, available in six languages, at the tourist office (across the street). Weather permitting, it's possible to climb the north tower ; tickets are sold in the boutique to the left as you approach the west facade.
A free 45-minute light show bathes the cathedral's facade in vivid medieval colours nightly from mid-June to mid-September and December to 1 January; the photons start flying at 7pm in winter and sometime between 9.45pm (September) and 10.45pm (June) in summer.