Cathédrale Notre Dame

sights / Religious

Cathédrale Notre Dame information

Amiens , France
place Notre Dame
north tower adult/child €5.50/free, audioguide €4
Opening hours
cathedral 8.30am-5.15pm daily, north tower to mid-afternoon Wed-Mon
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The largest Gothic cathedral in France (it's 145m long) and a Unesco World Heritage Site, this magnificent edifice was begun in 1220 to house the skull of St John the Baptist. Connoisseurs of architecture rave about the soaring Gothic arches (42.3m high over the transept), unity of style and immense interior, but for locals the highlight is a 17th-century statue known as the Ange Pleureur (Crying Angel), at the far end directly behind the over-the-top Baroque high altar.

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. Part of the skull of St John the Baptist, framed in gold and jewels, can be seen in the Trésor (treasury), set to open to the public in early 2016. Plaques in the south transept 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 an audioguide (45 to 75 minutes), available in six languages, at the tourist office (across the square). Weather permitting, visitors willing to brave 307 steps can climb the north tower for spectacular views; tickets are sold in the boutique to the left as you walk through the west façade. The cathedral is closed to visitors during religious ceremonies, including marriages.

A free 45-minute light show bathes the cathedral's façade in vivid medieval colours nightly from mid-June to the third weekend in September, and from early December to 1 January; the photons start flying at 7pm in winter and sometime between 9.45pm (September) and 10.45pm (June) in summer.