Cathédrale Sainte-Croix rises up above Rue Jeanne d'Arc in Orléans, France.

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Cathédrale Ste-Croix

Top choice in Orléans

In a country of jaw-dropping churches, Gothic-style Cathédrale Ste-Croix still raises a gasp. Originally built in the 13th century, it underwent tinkering by successive monarchs after being partly destroyed by Protestants in 1568. Joan of Arc prayed here on 8 May 1429 and was greeted with a procession of thanks for saving the town; 10 extraordinarily vivid stained-glass windows (1893) illustrate her life. The most picturesque way to approach the 130m-long cathedral is along rue Jeanne d'Arc.

It was Henri IV who kicked off the cathedral’s reconstruction in 1601. Louis XIII (r 1610–43) restored the choir and nave, Louis XIV (r 1643–1715) was responsible for the transept, and Louis XV (r 1715–74) and Louis XVI (r 1774–92) rebuilt the western façade, including its narthex (vestibule), arches and wedding-cake towers.

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