5. Notre Dame Cathedral, Rouen
Part of the reason the cathedral in Rouen is so famous is due to Claude Monet. He painted the cathedral more than 30 times between 1892 and 1894. Many who have never seen the cathedral will still recognize it from his paintings. The cathedral was begun in 1145 but is a mishmash of architectural styles as sections were added at different times right up to 1876. The three towes are a good example of this: The Tour Saint-Roman on the left dates from 1145, the Tour de Beurre on the right is from the 15th century, and the central Tour Lanterne of iron and bronze went up in 1876.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral, Reims
On the site of the cathedral in Reims between 815 and 1825, every French King was crowned. The current cathedral was started in around 1215 and completed by the end of that century, with the western facade added in the 14th century. The facade is without a doubt, the highlight of the building, and the three portals are laden with incredible Gothic carvings and statues. The central portal is dedicated to the Virgin and above the statuary is a beautiful rose window.
3. Notre Dame Cathedral, Amiens
The cathedral in Amiens is the largest in France, and also the tallest Gothic church in France. Much like Chartres and Reims, it is in the High-Gothic style of cathedrals built in the 13th century. When the cathedral that preceded this one was destroyed in the early 13th century, it was quickly determined that a new one needed to be built to hold the relic of the head of St. John the Baptist, brought back by crusaders. Built between 1220 and 1269, the speed of construction resulted in an unusual harmony of style. On the western facade the three deep porches featuring locally important saints, and above that are twenty-two statues of larger than life kings. In the 1990s when the facade was cleaned using lasers, the remnants of color was discovered on many of the portal carvings. Based on this, an elaborate light show now illuminates the portals the way they would have been seen by medieval visitors.
2. Notre Dame Cathedral, Chartres
The cathedral in Chartres is almost perfectly preserved, with almost no alterations made since it was built between 1193 and 1250. The north tower is one of the few alterations to the building, as the original was destroyed by lightning strike in the 1500s. This was the first cathedral to be built with flying buttresses, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of High-Gothic architecture. The church was a major stop on pilgrimage routes, as it houses a fragment of the Virgin Mary’s tunic. There is much to see at the Chartres cathedral, from the beautifully carved portals to the interior chancel screen. The stained glass windows date from 1205 to 1240, although four surviving windows from the earlier Romanesque church at this site are also used. Of the original 176 windows, 152 survive.
1. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
The most famous cathedral in the world, Notre Dame was built between 1163 and 1250. Most of the statuary and sculptures in the church were destroyed during the French Revolution in 1793 and extensive restoration started in 1845 included replacing the statues and adding the gallery between the two towers that hosts the famed gargoyles and chimera of Notre Dame. The west facade of the cathedral has two matching towers which stand 228 feet tall, and the King’s Gallery just above the portals has statues of the 28 Kings of Judah. The portals are beautifully carved with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the life of her mother, St. Anne, and the last Judgement. The large west rose window is quite beautiful and features scenes of the zodiac.