Churches of France
Whether or not your are religious, it is easy to appreciate the churches of France. One of the greatest countries in the world for its abundance of grand cathedrals.
being able to envision how builders from the middle ages could even build these edifices is amazing. Appreciating the art work that went into the structure, the stained glass and the interior artwork that is often displayed is akin to visiting the nation's museums. Additionally, the history behind the churches, and the towns and cities they represent gives a new window on centuries of French culture. In most cities you visit, the towns central church is not to be missed. And, in many cities, there are many churches and cathedrals on a must see list.
Here are just a few of the favorites of the more than a hundred of the French churches I have visited. Certainly, it is not an exhaustive list as there are more than a hundred cathedrals, and over 45,000 Catholic churches, as well as numerous abbeys and monasteries throughout France.
Notre Dame of Paris
Certainly, there is no way to start this list without Notre Dame of Paris. Even with the devastating fire on that fateful April day in 2019; this is still a grand place to visit, and will be even more so after the reopening for the 2024 Olympics. Luckily, I had the pleasure of visits before the fire, and since. And, of course, I will visit again after the restoration.
Like most of France's cathedrals, there was a church on the site long before the current one was constructed. In this case, the cathedral of Saint Etienne was built in the 4th century just west of the current cathedral. And, it is possible that there was a Roman temple to Jupiter built long before that.
In 1163, Bishop Maurice de Sully began construction of the current cathedral and the works lasted for more than 100 years until 1270.
Redecorated in the Golden Century of Art under Louis XIV in 1699. Removed from religious purposes during the French Revolution, and restored to religion under Napoleon,. During the mid 19th century, major renovations occurred in the Gothic style, including adding the iconic spire it is so well known for.
Today, undergoing fire restoration and still visited by millions each year to see the outside from the plaza in front.
Notre Dame in 2017
Notre Dame in 2023
The list continues with the largest church in France, and the 23rd largest in the world. Like others, churches existed here long before the current cathedral. Christianity was brought to Amiens in the 4th century, but the church construction was interrupted by the Vandals in the 5th century and restarted in the 6th century. As the previous churches were destroyed by fire; the current church was built in the 12th century, and in 1206 received a relic reported to be the head of St John the Baptist.
Having survived the sacking by the Protestant Huguenots in 1561, by storms in 1627 and 1705; by the explosion of a powder mill in 1675; like many other churches, it received great damage during the Revolution, and restoration commenced in the early 19th century.
This cathedral was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.
Roman Catholic church built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier building.
Towering Romanesque cathedral dating to the 11th century,
Cathedral begun at end of the 12th century, with a large crypt containing the tomb of Jean de Berry.
Saint Nazaire Basilica
A vibrant rose window adorns the facade of this elegant, Gothic-style 12th-century church.
Cathedral of Notre Dame de l'Assomption
13th-century Roman Catholic place of worship, built from lava stone.
Saint Michael's Church
Towering 16th-century church with an intricate Gothic facade, housing paintings by Franz Kraus
Basilica of Notre Dame
19th-century basilica with 4 octagonal towers, a religious art museum & regular Catholic services.
La Major Cathedral
Huge 19th century neo-Byzantine cathedral featuring an opulent interior lined with murals, mosaic & marble.
Gothic cathedral, built from 13th to 16th centuries, famous for its huge area of stained glass.
Baroque structure, dating from the 1700s, featuring a painted cupola & a monumental pipe organ.
Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Catholic cathedral built between the 15th and 19th century, with sculpted tombs & stained glass.
Gothic cathedral associated with Joan of Arc
Collegiale Notre Dame
Built around the bell tower from an 11th century church, the current structure was rebuilt from the beginning of the 12th century, and in particular between 1130 and 1160, in the late Romaneque style, then later eastern additions in the Gothic style. The future Louis IX (St Louis) was baptized here, a few days after his birth in Poissy on April 25, 1214.
Saint Pierre de Rennes Cathedral
Traditional site of cathedral, demolished in 18th century and rebuilt after the French Revolution.
Cathedral Notre Dame
Gothic edifice, dating from the 1200s, with a 16th-century astronomical clock & a rose window.
Medieval stained glass & royal tombs in a cathedral built between the 13th & 16th centuries