Notre-Dame: Paris’ Fair Lady

Think of Notre-Dame and you’ll probably be picturing Quasimodo. But the Notre-Dame cathedral is the factual setting for Victor Hugo’s work of fiction. And it’s French for Our Lady.

Very much a product of its medieval times, work started on the Notre-Dame cathedral in 1163. This Gothic masterpiece wasn’t completed, however, until a couple of centuries later. Yet leading theologian of the time Jean de Jandun wrote movingly of the work in progress in 1323: “That most glorious church of the most glorious Virgin Mary, mother of God, deservedly shines out, like the sun among stars.”

The opening times of Notre-Dame are Monday to Friday 8:00am to 6:45pm, extending to 7:15pm on Saturdays and Sunday. There’s no entrance fee. The cathedral opens its doors every single day of the year.

There are services which you can attend on a daily basis. Look out for Sunday’s Gregorian mass at 10.00am. Along with the Veneration of the Crown of Thorns and the Relics of the Passion which is held every first Friday of the month and every Friday during Lent at 3:00pm.

Priests are on hand in the chapel reception to hear confession Monday to Saturday from 10:00am to 12:30pm and from 2:30pm to 7:00pm (although during the summer months of July and August, the reception closes between 12:30pm and 3:00pm). On Saturdays, you can confess your sins between 3:00pm and 7:00pm. Confessions are heard in French, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Chinese.

Free guided tours are also available in a number of languages. The English ones are on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 2:00pm, and Saturday at 2:30pm. In summer, extra tours are provided by young CASA International volunteers.

There are various ways to reach the cathedral. Popular routes include the Métro (Lignes 1, 4, 7, 10, 11, and 14) and RER (Lignes B and C). There are also nearby bus stops, car parks, and taxi ranks.