Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris, written by Richard S. Hopkins, is an LSU Press publication exploring the green spaces in Paris. For the avid gardener and garden designer/planner, this could be a great book to learn more about Paris’ parks. Many people may think parks and gardens were created just to look at. But, the government influences more than people’s eyes.
Emperor Napoleon III wanted to make Paris an international capital. And, what an emperor wants, who can deny? Along with his great recreation of Paris, he wanted to include green spaces in each of the city’s sections. So, while Hausmann was tearing down ancient buildings and creating wide boulevards, gardens were being planned and planted all over the city.
Certainly, urban planners in the second half of the 1800s faced similar issues as those of today. First of all, how do we create green areas and their facilities that will attract visitors? Also, how do we serve the people living nearby and be good looking? Like today, building gardens and public gathering areas was a way to build communities and provide identity to the neighborhood.
This detailed book explores the history behind green spaces in Paris. Green spaces were public works projects. Many people were employed to construct and maintain the parks. This maintenance has continued for hundreds of years. So, it seems the parks succeeded at that goal. And, other goals were accomplished too. We, as visitors, are certainly the beneficiaries of this great nineteenth century project!
Praise for Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris
“Planning the Greenspaces is a fascinating read and a welcome addition to the scholarship on Paris and on urban greenspaces that could work well as a supplemental text in an upper-division course on Paris or France.”—American Historical Review
“This concise and elegant book reflects rigorous archival research rendered in readable prose. . . . Geographers will appreciate the author’s attention throughout to scale as an analytic tool, and his sustained analysis of the social production of urban space through a dialectic of design and use.”—Journal of Historical Geography
“Richard S. Hopkins’s book Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris serves as an important reminder that the development of acres of parks and gardens were also central to the project of creating a modern European capital. . . . [An] insightful and enjoyable text.”—Canadian Journal of History
Read more for yourself in Richard S. Hopkins’ book. He is an assistant professor of history at Widener University. The only part that I would have liked more is to have had illustrations of some of these green spaces. Sadly, there are none.
Planning the Greenspaces of Nineteenth-Century Paris, by Richard S. Hopkins. Order here.
Bastille Day and the World Cup final collide on the weekend of July 14, 2018! On Saturday, France will celebrate Bastille Day. Then on Sunday, France battles Croatia for the World Cup.
What is Bastille Day?
For those of us celebrating Bastille Day, and for those who want to know more about it, here is a short description. Bastille Day, in French “la Fête Nationale ” or “le 14 juillet,” is an annual national public holiday. It celebrates the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. Because there were only a few prisoners there at the time, the storming was mostly symbolic. However, this was the start of the overthrow of Louis XVI’s regime and the beginning of the Republic of France. That means it is a big event for all the non-royalists in France.
During the years of the revolution, the prison was completely torn apart and never rebuilt. The site of the Bastille prison is now the Place de la Bastille. At its center is the July Column (“Colonne de Juillet”). Rather than commemorating the storming of the Bastille, this column recognizes those who fought in the revolution of July, 1830.
A little confusing, but taken together, the square and the column honor and remember commoners who fought for freedom from oppression. Atop the July Column is Auguste Dumont’s gilded statue, “Génie de la Liberté,” or Spirit of Freedom. Appropriate, don’t you think? Another place to see and feel some of the intensity of the emotions of the people is in the Louvre. Take a look at Delacroix’s moving painting, “Liberty Leading the People.” Delacroix used the July Revolution for his inspiration.
Bastille Day Celebrations
Arc de Triomphe with Tricolore
Along with the landmarks commemorating the revolutions, Bastille Day is a celebration of freedom. It is much like our Independence Day. In Paris, a gigantic French flag, or “tricolore,” is flown within the grand arch of the Arc de Triomphe. The French military parades down the avenue des Champs- Élysées. Mounted cavalry, foot soldiers, regimental bands and officers in vehicles follow each other in one of the oldest annual military parades. French air force planes will fly overhead. And, people will generally make merry and enjoy the show put on for them.
Like our own July 4 celebrations, Bastille Day in France features fireworks lighting up the night sky, neighborhoods having street parties and families and friends gathering for traditional French meals. On the Champs-de-Mars, a concert will entertain thousands. And across the whole country, the Marseillaise, or the French National Anthem, will play over the radio waves and bands will perform it repeatedly.
As a visitor, the festivities can be a lot of fun. But do not expect many shops, museums or restaurants to be open. This includes the Eiffel Tower which was built as a landmark celebrating the 100th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. It will be closed in preparation of a grand fireworks display.
Around the World
Many places around the globe celebrate French heritage on Bastille Day. Among other more significant events, restaurants have special dinners and wine-pairings, people fly French flags, and, in New Orleans, waiters participate in races in the French Quarter. All in good fun celebrating Bastille Day!
For the World Cup, we hope there will be even more celebration in the French capital!
What does your community do to celebrate Bastille Day?
Paris is chock-a-block with awe-inspiring churches. Many of the grandest are newer replacements built on ancient Christian sites. But “newer” is a relative term. Like many other buildings in Paris, some of these churches are many hundreds of years old with long and interesting histories.
France is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic – whether in name only, or more. The churches listed here began, and most remain, Roman Catholic. Only those that have been deconsecrated are no longer under the Pope of Rome.
The awe-inspiring churches listed here are in no particular order. Of course you know some, but others are definitely worth the effort to visit. Also, the names of the churches are listed in French. English may seem easier for now, but in Paris, only French will be written on signs, maps and plans of the quarter at Métro exits.
If you plan on visiting the awe-inspiring churches that are still maintained as active Roman Catholic institutions, please be respectful of the religion. Some churches have been known to deny entry to those without long pants or covered shoulders.
So, here they are, 13 awe-inspiring churches in Paris:
1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is the most well known of the awe-inspiring churches in Paris. It is amazing to behold and it is an incredibly beautiful feat of engineering. The plaza out in front provides plenty of space to admire this marvelous creation.
Inside is a working Medieval masterpiece. Mass is said regularly. Step inside for a view to the Middle Ages. Smell the incense, hear the homily (over loudspeakers now) and enjoy the soft light coming in through the stained glass.
Make sure to walk around the entire cathedral. The shady side close to the river is a sweet little park. On the opposite side, stand close to the sides and look up to see the gargoyles overhead. Beware the gargoyles during a rain storm. They deliver the water out and away from the church – onto the sidewalk. Also, take a look in the back. Inside the fence surrounding the church, little storage areas protect stone pieces and parts from the cathedral.
Notre-Dame de Paris is the perfection of French Gothic architecture. Some may declare cathedrals in other cities to be the best example, but … seemingly everything is perfection. From the arches above the doors, the towers, and the ornate flying buttresses. And that is not even considering the spectacular interior.
During the Revolution, Notre-Dame de Paris was used as a warehouse.
Notre-Dame de Paris celebrated 850 years in 2013. It has witnessed 80 kings, two emperors and five republics.
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame, on the Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Nearest Métro and RER: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame Official website: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/ Admission fee: No, but, there is a charge to enter the treasury, the crypt and to climb the towers.
From a distance, Sacré-Cœur could compete for the best of the awe-inspiring churches. Its gleaming white stone sitting atop the city like a jewel makes it one of the most recognizable places in Paris.
The complete name is Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre), but generally the name is shortened to only, “Sacré-Cœur.”
Besides the church itself, one of the strongest draws to visit Sacré-Cœur is the view from the steps overlooking Paris. Beautiful at day or night, morning or evening, blazing hot or rainy. The expansive vistas are adored by many Parisians and visitors.
Sacré-Cœur’s architectural style is Romano-Byzantine. It was consecrated in 1919. And, at nearly 100, this is the youngest of the awe-inspiring churches.
The ceiling above the alter is covered by one of the largest mosaics in the world. Beautiful blue and gold tiles create a lovely canopy drawing you all the way into the basilica to see the powerful mosaic.
Address: 35, rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Nearest Métro: Anvers or Abbesses, then walk to the funiculaire. If you are looking up to Sacré-Cœur, the funiculaire is to the left at the bottom of the hill. Taking the funiculaire will take one regular Metro ticket. Official website: http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/ Admission fee: No, but there is a charge for visiting the crypt and climbing the dome.
3. Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés
“Prés” is the French word for grassy areas or fields. So the translation of the name from French is, “Church of St. Germain of the Fields.” Of course, it doesn’t look like it now, but when Paris was beginning as a village, this area was only fields.
In the early Middle Ages, the Merovingian King, Childebert I commanded the creation of an abbey (which includes a church) in these fields. And in 558, St. Germain, the bishop of Paris, consecrated the first church on this site.
As time moved on, a large, wealthy and important royal abbey grew on the fields. So large that it encompassed much of the area that is now referred to as the St. Germain neighborhood. And, so important that royalty was buried here until Dagobert I was buried at Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis in 639.
That original church is long gone, but the existing building it is the oldest of the big churches in Paris with parts dating from the 1000s and before.
The architectural style of Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés is described on its website as “primitive Gothic.” However, after many years and reconstructions, elements and details of other styles can be found.
Inside, the painted interior from the 1800s may be a little surprising. The walls and columns are covered with interesting designs and beautiful scenes painted in many colors. Up above, the ceiling is dotted with thousands of gold stars on a deep blue background. Around back you can see the flying buttresses. Compared to the ornate flying buttresses on the Gothic churches that would be built in the future, these may seem rather utilitarian.
In 1650, the philosopher, mathematician and scientist René Descartes died. After his body was moved a few times, finally in 1819 his cremated remains were interred in Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But, his head is preserved in the Musée de l’Homme.
Pretty much everything that Louis XIV commissioned is over-the-top. And, his chapel at Versailles is no exception. From the multi-colored marble floor to the exuberant ceiling paintings, everything is magnificent.
It is the fifth royal chapel at Versailles. And, this last one, is one of the awe-inspiring churches in Paris (or, very close to Paris).
According to its official website, “Every day the Court attended the King’s mass, which were usually held in the morning at 10. The sovereign sat in the royal tribune surrounded by his family. The ladies of the Court occupied the lateral tribunes, while the Officers and members of the public were seated in the nave.”
The Chapelle Royale (or Royal Chapel) is considered a masterpiece of the architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart. He designed it in the French Baroque architectural style and it was completed in 1710, two years after his death.
Intertwined script Ls adorn the chapel. These represent Saint Louis and Louis XIV. Louis XIV commanded the chapel to be built. The chapel is dedicated to Saint Louis.
One of the best things about this awe-inspiring church is that you can enjoy it with practically no one else in sight. Even though it is right in the middle of the busy 4th Arrondissement, it does not seem to be visited by many tourists. Take advantage of the solitude to really enjoy its beauty.
Of course, like many other awe-inspiring churches, the grand organ is mesmerizing when played. It is also one of the oldest in Paris. Concerts are not common events, so attending mass may be the best time to experience the organ.
Église Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais is the first church with a French Baroque facade. Most of the interior is Late Gothic with fine examples of Gothic stained glass and some from modern times as well.
Don’t miss the choir stalls and the incredible wood carvings from the time of Francois I and Henri II (1500s and 1600s). Although beautifully carved, some of the reliefs can be quite disturbing.
During the Revolution, it was the Temple of Reason and Youth.
Around the year 250, St. Denis was beheaded on Montmartre (the hill of martyrs). St. Denis did not die there. He picked up his head and walked North and eventually collapsed on the spot where the current cathedral is located. The way to find St. Denis in any line up of saints is to look for the one carrying his head, that is St. Denis.
Since St. Denis’ death, some type of shrine or memorial for the dead has been occupying the site. Because of its long history as a burial ground, many archeological excavations have taken place over the years. Around the church, many sarcophagi have been excavated with some dating from as early as the 300s and 400s.
Inside the cathedral, tombs are arranged throughout the main chapel. A map illustrates who is where. Along with containing the remains of the French royalty, the collection of funerary sculpture from the 12th to the 16th centuries is the largest of its kind. Life-like effigies adorn the tombs. On some, symbolic animal sculptures sit at their feet.
This church is held out as the first truly Gothic cathedral. In 1144, the apse was consecrated with King Louis VII and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine leading the procession.
Along with Louis XIV, the remains of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette are in the crypt.
Louis IX (later Saint Louis) commanded the construction of this chapel to house holy Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns. In 1248, Sainte-Chapelle was consecrated as a Roman Catholic church. Eventually, in 1842, the French government designated it a National Monument.
Sainte-Chapelle is truly one of the most awe-inspiring churches in Paris. The upper chapel is mind blowing. Walls of stained glass soar toward the ceiling. Every inch of surface is painted. It is kind of like being inside a jewel box. This magnificent chapel was reserved for worship exclusively by the king and his family. (The photo at the beginning is of the stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle. Fit for a king, no?)
Staff and others would worship in the lower chapel. It is fascinating to visit and also extremely beautiful. Also, the oldest fresco in France is within the lower chapel.
Looking at the Île de la Cité, there is a spire that seems to stick up out of nowhere. It seems to be kind of near Notre-Dame de Paris, but then if you are walking, it kind of disappears. It reappears while looking into the courtyard of the Palais de Justice – and – looking up. That spire belongs to Sainte-Chapelle. The front of Sainte-Chapelle is hidden behind the walls of the Palais de Justice, fronting the street. If there is no line, you can walk right by and miss it.
Sainte-Chapelle is definitely in the Gothic style. More particularly, it is in the Rayonnant Gothic style. Rayonnant comes from the French word for radiating, as in the famous rose windows.
Sainte-Chapelle was built in ONLY 7 YEARS!!! Incredible.
Le Panthéon is one of the most awe-inspiring churches that is no longer a church, but a temple to many of the worthies of France.
In 1744, Louis XV was suffering an illness so horrible, that he vowed, should he recover, he would direct a church be built to Ste. Geneviève. After he recovered, he kept his word and the church of Ste. Genevieve was built.
However, once the structure was completed in 1791, the French revolutionaries changed the use of the building to a mausoleum for French dignitaries. A pantheon, or temple to all gods. During its history, it served as a Christian temple again. But, when Victor Hugo died in 1885, Le Panthéon was once and for all converted to a temple honoring French men and women who provided France with great service.
The crypt is a fascinating trip through history. Tombs and crypts fill the lower floor. Look for the names of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Marie Curie, and Alexandre Dumas.
According to its publications, Le Panthéon is a mix of Classical and Gothic styles. Its design by the architect Soufflot was based on St. Paul’s in London and St. Peter’s in Rome and includes a tremendous dome. That dome is easy to see from many parts of Paris.
In 2018, Simone Veil was the most recent addition to Le Panthéon. Veil was a holocaust survivor and politician who broke barriers for women in French politics.
Climb to the top for beautiful views. Also, Foucault’s pendulum is suspended from the ceiling.
Address: Place du Panthéon, 75005 Nearest Métro: Maubert-Mutualité or Cardinal Lemoine (both are several blocks away) RER: Luxembourg Official website: http://www.paris-pantheon.fr/en Admission fee: Yes No longer a consecrated church
9. Église Saint-Séverin
Detail of Saint-Séverin. Look at the fine stonework and extraordinary gargoyles.
Séverin was a hermit living by the Seine in the 5th and 6th centuries. In 504, he cured King Clovis of a disease for which his doctors had no remedy. Along with that good deed for the royalty, he also performed other healing miracles that brought him enough admiration to dedicate a church to him.
Since the 500s, there has been a St. Severin church on that spot. That’s right, 1,500+ years ago. Parts of the building date back to the end of the 11th century, making it one of the oldest churches in Paris. Most of the current structure is from the 1200s – 1400s. Like other awe-inspiring churches, it has an organ. Much of the works are from the 18th century with even earlier pipes.
If you are in near Place Saint-Michel trying to find some street food, walk down Rue Saint-Séverin to find this church. Take a look at the gargoyles on the exterior, the flying buttresses and go in to see the interior. Some of the stained glass windows are from as long ago as the 14th century! Not as tall, or as big, or as grand as Notre-Dame de Paris, but it is still impressive.
Late Gothic. It is in middle of a busy neighborhood, so maybe it doesn’t get as much attention as it should?
The oldest bell in Paris rings from its tower.
Address: 3, rue des Prêtres Saint-Séverin, 75005 Nearest Métro: Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame Official website: https://saint-severin.com Admission fee: No
10. Église de la Madeleine
Église de la Madeleine ends the straightaway leading from the Place de la Concorde between the massive buildings flanking its north side. It is always startling to merrily trip around the obelisk, look to the side and then see a temple at the end of the street.
Nearly continuously from the 13th century, a Roman Catholic parish has been in charge of the site. And like so many of the sites for other awe-inspiring churches, various buildings have been built and torn down through the centuries. The current structure, however, is definitely unique among them.
Église de la Madeleine has an amazing organ and concerts are held regularly. Check the website when planning your trip for upcoming concert dates.
Down around back are stalls filled with beautiful flowers. And, across the street in the back you can find Fauchon – an incredible purveyor of delicacies. Then across from Église de la Madeleine in other directions, you will find Ralph Lauren, Bulgari, and other posh shops.
It looks like a Roman or Greek temple, and in fact, its architectural style is not surprisingly, Neo-Classical. The symmetrical columns, huge pediment and expansive stairs may make you feel as though you are in an ancient land.
The current building is the result of Napoleon I’s desire for a Temple to the Glory of the Great Army. So, it really was built as a temple. But, as history would have it, Napoleon I was exiled before it could be used as a secular temple. The monarchy was restored (the Restoration), and that is when King Louis XVIII declared the building would be a Roman Catholic church. And, since its consecration in 1842, a Roman Catholic church it remains.
Église Saint-Eustache began as a small chapel in 1213. The first stone of the current awe-inspiring church was laid on August 19, 1532. And, on April 26, 1637, the church was consecrated. (Those Roman Catholic churches keep some meticulous records.)
The open expanse of the former Les Halles markets provides plenty of room to back way up and really see the church. The interior of the church seems vast, maybe because the ceiling is over 100′ high.
Saint-Eustache’s organ has 8,000 pipes. The church regularly holds organ concerts on Sundays at 5:30pm (except for special days). When planning your trip, check the website to confirm concert times.
The current awe-inspiring church is generally in the late Gothic style with Renaissance features.
Here in 1649, Louis XIV received his first communion.
Hector Berlioz’s “Te Deum” premiered here on April 30, 1855.
La Fontaine, the famous fable writer, is interred in Saint-Eustache.
During the Revolution, it was designated the Temple of Agriculture and used as a barn.
Super Cool Extra:
Église Saint-Eustache created a video of the church filmed by a drone – really interesting to watch. See the columns, organ – everything – up close here.
Address: 2 impasse Saint-Eustache, 75001 Nearest Métro: Les Halles RER: Chatelet – Les Halles Official website: http://saint-eustache.org/ Admission fee: No
12. Église Saint-Sulpice
Église Saint-Sulpice is one of the awe-inspiring churches of Paris. One, because it is one of the biggest in Paris. Two, because it looks different from the others. Three, because the South tower remains incomplete due to a stop in construction during the French Revolution – and it never resumed. Four, because the grand organ, well, is pretty grand. And, five, because the square out in front is so relaxing and such a good place to admire the church and listen to the water cascading in the huge fountain in the middle.
Like nearly all of the other awe-inspiring churches, this site has a long history with the Roman Catholic faith. The current church, which was begun in 1646, is built on earlier foundations. It is also home to three murals by Eugène Delacroix. Look for them on the right, in the first side chapel.
Check for organ concerts on the website. Each Sunday the church gives mass at 11:00am and 6:45pm. For 10-15 minutes before the each of those masses, the great organ is played. (There is a choir organ as well.) Also, the great organ is played during mass and for 30 minutes after the 11:00am mass.
Across the square, just off the right corner if you are looking out of the front door of the church, is a great place for a macaroon. Stop in at the famous patisserie, Pierre Hermé, at 72 rue Bonaparte, 75006.
Kind of a combination of Neo-Classical and Baroque with an Italianate facade.
13. Église du Dôme (or Église Royale) at Les Invalides – the Boulanger’s Dozen of the Awe-Inspiring Churches in Paris
Louis XIV commissioned Jules Hardouin Mansart to design and build this royal chapel that qualifies as one of the awe-inspiring churches of Paris. The Église du Dôme was built between 1677 and 1706 and it is a stunner inside and out.
Yet, the monarchy did not survive. During the Revolution, this grand building became the Temple of Mars. Later, while Napoleon I reigned as Emperor, the building was a pantheon to military greats and many military officers are interred here.
Napoleon I was exiled and died on St. Helena. But he would again leave a permanent impression on the Temple of Mars. King Louis-Philippe decided that Napoleon I’s body should be given a place of honor beneath the great dome. After many years of extensive work, the magnificent space was ready to hold its intended imperial remains. When everything was ready, Napoleon I was given a state funeral and placed in his eternal tomb under a golden dome.
Along with Napoleon I, his son, Napoleon II (also known as l’Aiglon), the King of Rome, is interred here – without his heart or intestines. And, Napoleon’s brothers, Joseph Bonaparte and Jérôme Bonaparte can be found as well.
Beyond the royal chapel, you can see the Cathédral of Saint-Louis des Invalides, which is also known as the Veteran’s chapel. Through a glass partition between the two churches, look for flags (or trophies) taken from the vanquished that now hang from the gleaming white stone walls.
The amount of gold on the dome is enough to make this qualify as one of the awe-inspiring churches of Paris. In 1989 it took more than 26 pounds of gold for leafing that glistening dome.
More than 50 years after his death, Alberto Giacometti’s studio in Paris has been reassembled and is open for you to visit. You will find it about a mile from his original studio, in the same Montparnasse neighborhood.
Forethought to Preserve an Artist’s Legacy
When he died in 1966, Giacometti’s studio of 40 years was disassembled by his wife, Annette. She removed all of the artist’s works in progress, furnishings and even the walls to preserve them.Annette had the forethought, and somehow knew, that Giacometti’s studio should be saved for the future.
Eventually, Giacometti’s studio and artwork, notebooks, sketchbooks and all kinds of things Giacometti, was left by Annette in 1993 to the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti.The Foundation runs the Giacometti Institute and that organization, “is the reference place for Giacometti’s work and an art history center including exhibitions, research and pedagogy.”
Reconstruction of Giacometti’s Studio
In furtherance of its mission, Giacometti’s studio was reconstructed.Using old photographs of Giacometti’s studio by Robert Doisneau, Gordon Parks, Sabine Weiss and Ernst Scheidegger the Giacometti Institute rebuilt the studio just as it had been.At only 15′ x 16′, you wouldn’t think it could hold much. But, like his skeletal sculptures, Giacometti’s studio is powerful and full of the artist’s presence.
The website explains that now the Giacometti Institute has on permanent display, “Giacometti’s reconstructed studio including his furniture, personal objects, walls painted by the artist and exclusive works, some of which have never before been exhibited.”
Giacometti’s Studio Housed in Art-Deco
The Giacometti Foundation decided to place the institute in a 1914 Art-Deco building with a famous history of its own.Paul Follot, the renowned Art-Deco artist and interior designer had his showroom in the building.(Super-cool!)
Of course, the 3,700 square foot space needed lots of work to make it a suitable place for the Institute.Pascal Grasso, the architect working on the restoration and renovation, had three objectives, “respect the historic monument and give Giacometti’s work pride of place, while devising a contemporary space endowed with its own identity.”
The foundation’s collection is the largest holding of artwork by Alberto Giacometti.It includes hundreds of sculptures, nearly 100 paintings and thousands of drawings, etchings and engravings.Some of these can be seen on a visit to the institute.
Breaking Many Banks
Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures are some of the most recognizable in the world – and the most expensive. “Chariot,” a breathtaking 1950 bronze by Alberto Giacometti, sold for nearly US$101 Million in 2014. And, in 2015, the spaghetti-string armed, “Pointing Man,” sold for over US$141 Million. That set a world record for a sculpture at auction.
“Chariot” by Alberto Giacometti
Want to see a current major exhibition of Alberto Giacometti’s work in the United States? Visit the Guggenheim in New York through September 12, 2018.
Giacometti’s Studio Address: Inside the Institute Giacometti, 5, Rue Victor Schoelcher, 75014 Paris Nearest Métro: Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau RER: Line B, Stop: Denfert-Rochereau Official website: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en Hours: Open by online reservation system only. Tuesday from 2:00pm – 6:00pm and Wednesday – Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm. Closed: Monday all day and Tuesday mornings. Admission charge: Yes
France is lucky to have many World Heritage Sites, but there are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in/near Paris. You can easily visit some of them on a trip to Paris. Even if you do not know it, you are already familiar with one spectacular World Heritage Sites – the banks of the Seine. Did you know that? For many people, the designation alone is enough reason to make a trip to see the site or to plan a vacation around it. But, what does it mean to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
What is UNESCO?
UNESCO is an agency within the United Nations. According to its website: “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.”
How Does UNESCO Do All of That?
Nearly 200 countries have agreed to be bound by that Convention and the policies adopted by the organization. These policies affect many different aspects of culture, but a well-known way that is easy to tangibly see are landmarks or areas that are designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
What is a World Heritage Site?
Obtaining the designation is often a years-long process based on a variety of criteria that demonstrate the area or landmark’s significance, uniqueness, and contribution to culture. And, in emergency situations, UNESCO takes into account the potential for loss. Suffice it to say, that the places on the World Heritage Site list are generally awe-inspiring.
Why Do Countries Want Sites on the List?
Along with the prestige of having the designation, financial assistance may be awarded to preserve, conserve and plan for the future. Also, oversight and expert help come from UNESCO. Plus, the designation will bring hordes of tourists (money from another source).
UNESCO, like many other organizations, has had its share of controversies. Although it may be difficult to find agreement on how cultural conservation should be accomplished, no one can argue with attempts to save cultural sites, heighten awareness of them and provide planning assistance for the enjoyment of those sites by future generations. Plus, they are fun to visit!
(By the way, UNESCO headquarters is in Paris on the Place de Fontenoy in the 7th Arrondissement, behind the École Militaire.)
Following are UNESCO World Heritage Sites In/Near Paris.
Links are for the UNESCO entry that describes its cultural importance and the website of the landmark.
Paris, Banks of the Seine
That’s right! You already know this one! And, UNESCO recognizes the entire landscape. Medieval buildings, grand plazas, gardens, monuments, bridges – the whole thing. Most of the designated area can be seen from a river cruise. UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/600
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement.
Le Corbusier, born Charles- Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, was a Swiss-born architect working from the 1920s to 1960s. He was responsible for 17 international sites that are together the one World Heritage Site. Two of his works are very near Paris. UNESCO website. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1321
Walk by this modernist apartment building from the 1930s on Rue Nungesser et Coli and faces Stade Jean Bouin. Private residences.
Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs
Counts of Champagne ruled from this town. Provins was home to annual trade fairs where goods were bartered and sold from as far away as northern Europe and the Mediterranean. Still, see the fortified walls and ramparts that surround the old town. Only about 60 miles from Paris and a train can take you there. Then, it is a mile walk to the old town. UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/873
Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars
Besides beauty, creativity and great taste, I don’t know what to write. The World Heritage website describes this entry as the following: “The property is made up of three distinct ensembles: the historic vineyards of Hautvillers, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Saint-Nicaise Hill in Reims, and the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol in Epernay. These three components – the supply basin formed by the historic hillsides, the production sites (with their underground cellars) and the sales and distribution centres (the Champagne Houses) – illustrate the entire champagne production process. The property bears clear testimony to the development of a very specialized artisan activity that has become an agro-industrial enterprise.” Essentially, I think, the towns and work grew up around the vines. UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1465
Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims
While visiting the Champagne countryside, take a look at this marvel and its compound. Not far from the train station, or from Roman ruins, take a look at the Reims Cathedral and other parts of the World Heritage Site. World War I caused great damage to the cathedral towers, but they have been completely restored. The Towers of Reims Cathedral are a French National Monument. Website: http://www.cathedrale-reims.fr/en Ministry of Cultural Affairs website: http://www.reims-cathedral.culture.fr/ UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/601
Another medieval and Gothic masterpiece and really big. The vaulted ceiling is the tallest of any complete cathedral – nearly 140 feet. And, guess what the relic is? St. John the Baptist’s head! About a half mile from the train station. Towers and Treasury are a French National Monument. Website: http://www.cathedrale-amiens.fr/ UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/162
The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
Beautiful river, glorious drive, breathtaking castles. Some of the Châteaux included in the designated area are Chambord, Blois, Chenonceau, Amboise, and Azay-le-Rideau. UNESCO website: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/933
Another site, very close to Paris is on UNESCO’s “Tentative List.”
One day it may receive the prestigious designation.
If you do not believe in an almighty creator, visiting Notre-Dame may change your mind. Begun nearly 900 years ago, back when the world was flat, and on the site of a previous Christian temple, the famed Notre-Dame rises to soaring heights on the Île de la Cité.
Wonder of the World?
Marvel at the ingenuity and skill it took to create this temple – at anytime – even today. Outside, the flying buttresses support the massive walls. Inside, the vaulted arches soar overhead. The organ fills an entire end of the nave with its pipes. Take a look at the stained glass and stand in awe of the ones who imagined, and created, those tremendous windows. No computers involved.
Rose window in Notre-Dame.
Rayonnant Gothic rose window (north transept), Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60404628
Check out the hardware. Even the hinges on the magnificent exterior doors are a mystery. How did anyone fabricate those? Or, how did anyone dream up the design for those massive doors in the 1100s? And, at Easter, the doors open, light floods into the cathedral, incense wafts through the air inside and out, and throngs of faithful (and plain visitors) experience a rare event at Notre-Dame. It is breathtaking and soul-stirring.
There are no tickets to buy to visit the cathedral interior. The line snakes around and around on the plaza in front of Notre-Dame. Jump in and patiently wait to enter. Or, go early or late and avoid the line altogether.
While milling about in front of Notre-Dame on the plaza, you may find a brass marker of Point Zero – the center of Paris. It hasn’t been a grand plaza for very long. Until the houses around it were razed in the 1860s, the cathedral was surrounded by 2-3 story houses across the street from it. Making for a surprise discovery up close, but not a very grand appearance from out front.
Also on the plaza, on the side closest to the Seine, Charlemagne stands guard on his horse. The Frankish king is resplendent in bronze with a beard and helmet worthy of cinema. A great photo op.
Once inside, allow a moment for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then, walk the perimeter of the nave and visit the side alters or chapels. Look toward the rows of seats and the choir and alter. That is where Napoleon crowned himself emperor right there in the big middle of it all.
Church and Organ
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is not there to ring the bells. But, the bells do ring. This means that it is a working cathedral and deserves the respect of all who enter. Near silence is expected and only use whispering voices. When visiting, wear long pants and women cover your shoulders.
Masses are held regularly and are wonderful to attend. Even though it is in a foreign language, observe the quietness and the choir singing and enjoy a few moments of reflection. Religious or not, it can be a welcome calm hour or so in a magnificent man-made creation.
Organ concerts in Notre-Dame are eery and beautiful. Strangely, the light is directed on the audience rather than toward the organ. One has to turn around in the seats and glare into the light to see the organ master and pipes. Maybe this encourages focus on the ears, rather than the eyes.
Back outside, on the Seine side and in the back, Notre-Dame has an inviting and quiet garden. Yes, even though in the front and the other side is crazy with tourists, the garden is generally a quiet retreat for a rest on a bench. Soak up the beauty of the trees, critically eye the flying buttresses and also choose your favorite gargoyle downspout.
Want to have a close look from on high? Climb the towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The stairs are crazy narrow and barely large enough for one person. It is a little dizzying looking at your feet and spiraling around and around.
Gargoyles and cage on Notre-Dame tower
Even off the stairs, the passageways are very narrow. Outside on the towers, a cage surrounds visitors, but the famous gargoyles are only inches away. Walk through the belfry while the guards are telling you to keep moving. The views are spectacular from even the mid level of the towers, but just wait until the top. A feat of engineering up close and very personal.
There is so much history who knows if it can all be written. But, here are a couple of interesting tidbits.
The cathedral is a French National Monument. While the building is owned by the French State, the Roman Catholic Church has the perpetual right to use it for religious purposes.
Begun in 1163, construction lasted 200 years. In 2012, it celebrated its 850th anniversary.
The cathedral has 10 bells. Emmanuel is the largest and it is from 1681.
The holy relics now housed in the treasury of Notre-Dame include the Holy Crown of thorns, a piece of the cross, and a nail of the Passion.
A Little More
Notre Dame is inspiring from every angle – believer or not. The sheer design of the builders is inspiring. How could they envision such an awe-inspiring and ambitious church??? Astonishing in all respects.
Can you imagine being a peasant from the countryside, rowing your boat up the Seine in the year 1300, rounding the bend and seeing Notre-Dame? They probably wanted to know what god was responsible for such a structure and immediately converted!
Notre-Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)
Nearest Metro: Cité or Saint Michel Arrondissement: 4th Admission: It is free to visit the cathedral. Admission is charged to enter the Treasury. No bags are allowed. Official website: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/en/
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