Paris's Five Beautiful Churches

Notre-Dame de Paris

Paris, the French capital, was the world's largest Catholic city at the turn of the twentieth century. Today, the city has nearly 200 Roman Catholic churches, 80 male and 140 female monasteries, and 110 schools. Parisians are still predominantly Roman Catholic.

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France was one of the dominant Catholic countries in Europe for most of the last millennium. Also, it was more famous for its large cathedrals and, in some places, even small churches rather than castles and palaces during the Middle Ages.

Many Paris visitors or those planning a trip to the French capital are unlikely to know more than two of the city's churches: Notre-Dame and Sacré-Cœur. Why? Because in the twenty-first century, religious buildings aren't popular tourist attractions. Second, almost all travel brochures about Paris focus solely on these two churches. Third, most tourists lack their own personal ideas. Here is my list of five beautiful churches in Paris, along with brief descriptions.

5 Beautiful Churches in Paris

1. Notre-Dame

Paris's Top 5 Churches
The Cathedral before the 2019 fire

Located on an island in the Seine River in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, known locally as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, is one of the city's most visible and celebrated landmarks. Over 15 million tourists visit Notre Dame Cathedral each year.

Construction of the building began in 1163. It was mainly completed by 1260, with numerous transformations since then. The magnificent church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is the best example of French Gothic architecture.

Stone and wood are the primary building materials. The main facade's towers are not identical; the north tower, closest to the Seine, is larger than the south.

Inside the five-nave church, 29 chapels contain works of art from the 17th and 18th centuries. The building has 110 stained-glass windows through which light shines. The rose window on the north side dates back to 1255. The southern rose, which depicts Christ surrounded by angels and saints, is dated around 1260. The western rose, the oldest of the three, is from 1220.

Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
Website: Notre-Dame de Paris

2. Sacré-Cœur

Sacred Heart Basilica
Southeastern view of the minor basilica

The minor basilica stands at the summit of Montmartre, the city's highest point, at 130 meters (426 feet). A beautiful panorama of Paris opens up in clear weather from a wide multi-tiered staircase close to the church, with a view of around 30 kilometers (20 miles).

Unlike most churches, which have an east-west axis, Sacré-Coeur has a north-south orientation. Paul Abadi, a French architect, designed it in the Roman-Byzantine architectural style. Built between 1875 and 1914 and shaped like a Greek cross, the church has four domes; the height of the central one is 83 meters (272 feet).

Entering the building through the main door, you will notice radial chapels. France's most significant mosaic, measuring 475 square meters (5113 square feet), adorns the semi-dome of the choir's apse.

Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Website: La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre

3. Saint-Laurent

Église Saint-Laurent de Paris
Western view of the church from the Boulevard de Magenta

The Church of St. Lawrence, known as Église Saint-Laurent in the French language, is a Roman Catholic parish church in Paris's 10th arrondissement. Its architectural style is Flamboyant Gothic, evidenced by the ornamentation's exuberance.

Except for its 11th-century bell tower, the building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. The 19th century brought new wooden decorations and stained glass windows to the church. Its four-bay nave, with several extensive pointed arch arcades, is extended by a non-projecting transept. The entire structure has two levels. Saint-Laurent has been a historical monument since 1945 and is well worth seeing.

Address: 68 Bd de Magenta, 75010 Paris, France
Website: Paroisse Saint-Laurent à Paris

4. Saint-Severin

Église Saint-Séverin
Southern view of the church from Rue des Prêtres Saint-Séverin

The Church of St. Severin, known locally as Église Saint-Séverin, was built in the 13th-15th centuries and is one of the oldest churches still standing on the Left Bank. If you want to see the building, stroll through the narrow, winding streets of the 5th arrondissement.

The church is a work of art in the Flamboyant Gothic architectural style, with rich external ornamentation: beautiful gargoyles, buttresses, and pinnacles. The interior is also Late Gothic. The vault is cross-ribbed. Many of the pillars are in the form of palm trunks. Its first three bays of the nave and first low southern side date back to the 13th century. The bell tower, which also comes from the same century, has the oldest bell in Paris, a 1412 bell.

Address: 2 Rue des Prêtres Saint-Séverin, 75005 Paris, France
Website: Paroisse Saint-Severin

5. La Madeleine

Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine
Southern view of the church from Rue Royale

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, officially known as Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, is a Roman Catholic church in Paris that appears to be an enormous ancient Greek or Roman temple at first glance. The structure has 52 Corinthian columns that stand 65 feet (20 meters) tall, giving it a majestic appearance.

Designed by Pierre-Alexandre Vignon, a French architect, at the beginning of the 19th century as a temple to Napoleon's army, the building has a Neoclassical architectural style. Its softly-lit interior consists of a single nave with three domes invisible from the outside. The large organ of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene makes it a special place for music, so attending a concert inside is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience in Paris for classical music enthusiasts.

Address: Pl. de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, France
Website: Paroisse de la Madeleine

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