Notre Dame de Paris Historical Background, Episode 4

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, a Short History

The first time I walked inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, I thought “this is so small compared to Saint Peter in Rome!” I had just visited Rome, and although I had driven past Notre Dame Cathedral many times, I had never stepped inside. You would be surprised the number of French people, even Parisians, who have never stepped foot inside of Notre Dame! But I suppose it’s no different than New Yorkers never going up the Empire State Building. Locals often ignore what’s right in front of their noses.

By the time I went into Notre Dame Cathedral, I was a woman in my 40s who had just visited Rome, so that was my point of reference. What I didn’t know at the time, because my passion for French history was born a few years later, is that the first stone of Notre Dame Cathedral was laid in 1163 whereas they laid the first stone for Saint Peter in 1506. 343 years separate these two massive churches! Notre Dame is a Cathedral whereas Saint Peter is a Basilica. There are lots of differences between the two and my point is, it’s best not to compare them too much.

In this episode of the Join Us in France Travel Podcast Elyse explains how the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral came about. The construction of this Cathedral is one of the most monumental undertakings ever completed in Paris and the stars had to line up just right to get it done.  Why is Notre Dame so special? Why does it get so many visitors?  There are so many churches in Paris, some are incredibly beautiful, what sets Notre Dame apart?

The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral is the one place in Paris everybody should see. Even if you’re not religious at all, even if you’re of a different faith. It’s a masterpiece and will set the tone for everything else you’ll see in Paris. And, who knows, you might run into the Hunchback!

The Sainte Chapelle in Paris, Episode 3

The Sainte Chapelle in Paris


On today’s episode we discuss the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. It was the King’s private chapel, and this one place in Paris that will make you feel like a king too. This should be on everyone’s top-10 for Paris, even for people who don’t enjoy visiting churches. The Sainte Chapelle has not been a church for a long time. Today it is used for concerts and is a popular place to visit.

On a sunny day, the Sainte Chapelle feels like walking into a kaleidoscope. The colors will overwhelm you and you’ll never look at stained-glass windows the same way. The kings knew things about light and color that we’ve since forgotten, and it’s a privilege to see them again.

The Sainte-Chapelle is not very big, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of hours to see it all, but these are two hours you will never forget. So next time you’re in Paris go!

The Sainte Chapelle Episode

[02:00] The Sainte Chapelle is where Saint Louis displayed the Crown of Thorns. How much do we know about this relic, was it the real thing?

[03:20] They built this church for the exclusive use of the French King and his family. Louis IX a.k.a. Saint Louis was very pious and having precious relics in his possession was a sign that God favored his reign and that he was the legitimate ruler of France.

[04:00] The Gothic architectural style is what you will see in this church with tall stained glass windows and narrow stone pillars. Light reflections are an opening into paradise.

[06:00] Many visitors to Paris walk right past the entrance to the Sainte Chapelle and never go inside. We think you shouldn’t miss it and explain why. We recommend you get the Museum Pass which includes this attraction and plan on spending some time in the security line.

How Did they Build the Sainte Chapelle?

[07:00] The makers of this stained glass used a secret formula for some of their colors that we cannot reproduce.

[08:00] It’s a miracle that the stained-glass is still there. There is a video on the bottom level that shows you how they keep the stained glass pristine and safe through two World Wars and Occupations by the Germans.

[09:30] We think this is more beautiful even than Chartres Cathedral, but they are both marvelous in their own way.

[11:30] Practical considerations: How to get there, entrance fees, photos ARE ALLOWED now! How fit do you have to be for this visit? There are some stairs. There is an elevator but only if reserved ahead of time. This venue only offers guided tours in French. If you want a tour in English arrange it ahead of time. This visit is not ideal for small children.

Thank you listeners! In the comments we’d love to know if you’ve visited the Sainte Chapelle and how it made you feel.

Episode 2 Ile de la Cité


800px-Quai_de_l'Archevêché_Île_de_la_Cité photo leo gonzales

Ile de la Cité, Where Paris Was Born

In this episode Elyse tells us about Ile de la Cité, the place where Paris was born. We explain why you should take a stroll and enjoy the beautiful and romantic Ile de la Cité in Paris. We suggest you listen to this episode while on your Paris walk around the Ile de la Cite. You could also visit the Crypt on the Parvis de Notre Dame, or the visit the Conciergerie where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, or maybe walk up the tower of Notre Dame and look for a very famous hunchback? You should definitely enjoy a relaxing moment in one of the many Brasseries on Ile de la Cité. Even if you only have two hours in Paris, you must go there!

Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint Louis Episode

[02:20] There are four great monuments to visit on the Ile de la Cite: Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, the Sainte Chapelle, the Archeological Crypt in front of Notre Dame de Paris, and the Conciergerie where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned. There are also two parks you can visit on the Ile de la Cite, and the cut flower market.

[05:00] The Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint Louis are easy visit physically because everything is flat. The only difficulty is the tower of Notre Dame de Paris where the hunchback lived and worked. Watch out for narrow stair cases in Medieval buildings!

[06:30] Where to go take photographs. The foot bridges around Ile da la Cite.

[07:30] How to find a clean bathroom on Ile de la Cite.

[09:15] What’s a good place to eat?

[11:12] Bridge that takes you to Ile Saint Louis. What to see on Ile Saint Louis. Berthillon ice cream.

[13:43] Parting words, go to www.joinusinfrance.com to ask a question or add some information about Ile de la Cité you’d like to share with the community. Also please leave us a review in iTunes, it encourages us greatly! Thank you Rémy for your music!

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