Religious sites in France

Sacré-Coeur

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. It is a popular landmark located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871 ...
Founded: 1875-1919 | Location: Paris, France

Mont Saint Michel Abbey

The first written text about an abbey dates from the 9th century. When Christianity expanded to this area, around the 4th century, Mont Tombe, the original name of Mont Saint Michel, was part of diocèse d’Avranches. By the middle of the 6th century, christianism had a stronger presence in the bay. By this time, Mont Tombe was populated by religious devots, hermits (probably some Celtic monks) resupplied by th ...
Founded: 709 AD | Location: Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Lyon Cathedral

Lyon Cathedral was founded by Saint Pothinus and Saint Irenaeus, the first two bishops of Lyon. The cathedral is also known as a Primatiale because in 1079 the Pope granted to the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate of All the Gauls with the legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of the kingdom. It is located in the heart of the old town, less than five minutes away from the banks of the Saône river, with a l ...
Founded: 1180 | Location: Lyon, France

Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral of St. Etiénne, one of the finest Gothic cathedrals, was built mainly between 1195 and 1260. The unknown architect designed it without transepts, which, combined with the interior’s unusual height and width, makes it seem much lighter than most Gothic cathedrals. Structural problems with the South tower led to the building of the adjoining buttress tower in the mid-14th century. The North to ...
Founded: 1195-1260 | Location: Bourges, France

Vienne Cathedral

Vienne Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Maurice, was the epicopal see of the primate of the ancient Septem Provinciae and of the Archdiocese of Vienne until its abolition confirmed by the Concordat of 1801. It today serves as co-cathedral of the Diocese of Grenoble-Vienne. The present-day building was erected from 1130 onwards. Mentioned as the burial place of the Burgundian king Boso of Provence in 887, no t ...
Founded: 1130 | Location: Vienne, France

Notre Dame de Paris

Construction history The Notre Dame de Paris stands on the site of Paris' first Christian church, Saint Etienne basilica, which was itself built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter. The first church was built by Childebert I, the king of the Franks, in 528, and was already the cathedral of the city of Paris in the 10th century. However, in 1160, having become the 'parish church of the kings of Europe,' Bishop Mauric ...
Founded: 1163 | Location: Paris, France

Mende Cathedral

Dominated by the silhouette of its two differently-sized bell towers, the Mende Cathedral was built from the 14th century onwards at the request of Urbanus V, a pope from Gévaudan, whose bronze statue has stood on the forecourt since 1874. Once inside the building, discover the crypt of St. Privatus, the black Virgin dating from the 12th century, brought back from the East by the crusaders, the carved wooden stalls, the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mende, France

Le Mans Cathedral

Le Mans Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Julian of Le Mans, the city"s first bishop, who established Christianity in the area around the beginning of the 4th century. The cathedral, which combines a Romanesque nave and a High Gothic choir, is notable for its rich collection of stained glass and the spectacular bifurcating flying buttresses at its eastern end. Nothing is known about the form of the original church fou ...
Founded: 834 AD | Location: Le Mans, France

Notre-Dame de Nice

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice was built between 1864 and 1868. It was designed by Louis Lenormand and is the largest church in Nice, but is not the cathedral. Inspired by Angers Cathedral, it is built in the Neo-Gothic style. Its construction was motivated by a desire to frenchify the city after the County of Nice was annexed to France from Italy, and at the time Gothic buildings were supposed to be charac ...
Founded: 1864-1868 | Location: Nice, France

Sospel Cathedral

Sospel Cathedral formerly the seat of the schismatic Bishopric of Sospel, created in 1378. Apart from a belltower of either the 11th or the 13th century, from the Lombard period of Sospel"s history, the cathedral was built between 1642 and 1762, and is claimed to be the largest building in the Alpes-Maritimes. The Renaissance façade is from 1642, and contains in two niches the statues of the town"s prote ...
Founded: 1642-1762 | Location: Sospel, France

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, a bishopric established in the 6th century and abolished under the Concordat of 1801, when its territory was transferred to the Diocese of Quimper. It is dedicated to its 6th-century founder, the first bishop Saint Paul Aurelian. He was originally from Wales and he is considered to have been the first bishop of the L&eacut ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

St. Nicolas Church

Saint Nicolas Church is located just outside the old city walls of Toulouse. The Tolosan style octagonal bell tower was rebuilt around 1300, copying those of Saint Sernin and Church of the Jacobins.
Founded: 1300 | Location: Toulouse, France

La Madeleine

Curiously resembling the Parthenon in Greece, the Eglise de la Madeleine (named after Mary Magdalene) was originally slated to be a government hall, a library, and a National Bank. It was originally built in the 18th century to the site of ancient Jewish synagogue. The Madeleine Church was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army in 1806. The latter eventually got his way, and in 1842 ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs Church

The Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was once part of the powerful Abbey of Saint Martin des Champs. The abbey was founded as a daughter house of the Benedictine monastery of Cluny in 1067. It was incorporated into the city in the 14th century when it was enclosed by the new city wall constructed under the management of the Prefect of Paris, Etienne Marcel. The church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was begun in 1420 and en ...
Founded: 1420 | Location: Paris, France

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle (The Holy Chapel) is a 13th-century Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. Sainte-Chapelle was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics. The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte-Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. Unlike many devout ari ...
Founded: 1241-1248 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Jacques Tower

Saint-Jacques Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of the former 16th-century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, which was demolished in 1797, during the French Revolution, leaving only the tower. What remains of the destroyed church of St. Jacques La Boucherie is now considered a national historic landmark. The tower"s rich decoration reflects the wealth of its patrons, the wholesale butchers of the ne ...
Founded: 1509-1523 | Location: Paris, France

Sées Cathedral

Sées Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Sées) dates from the 13th and 14th century and occupies the site of three earlier churches. The west front, which is disfigured by the buttresses projecting beyond it, has two stately spires of open work 230 ft. high. The nave was built towards the end of the 13th century. The choir, built soon afterwards, is remarkable for the lightness of its construction. In ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sées, France

Le Havre Cathedral

Le Havre Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Havre) was previously a parish church dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and is the oldest of the very few buildings in central Le Havre to have survived the devastation of World War II. It became a cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Le Havre in 1974, when the diocese of Le Havre was created. The belltower dates from around 1520 and the main façade is ...
Founded: 1575 | Location: Le Havre, France

Rodez Cathedral

Rodez Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez) is a national monument and is the seat of the Bishopric of Rodez. The closed west front once formed part of the city wall of Rodez.  Rodez was Christianized in the 4th-5th century AD, and the first mention of a cathedral dates from around 516. This structure was rebuilt c. 1000; almost nothing remains of it after the decision to rebuild it from scratch in 1276. The wo ...
Founded: 1276 | Location: Rodez, France

Saint-Malo Cathedral

Saint-Malo Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Vincent-de-Saragosse de Saint-Malo) is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa. It was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Malo. The cathedral was built in 1146 when Jean de Châtillon, Bishop of Aleth, transferred his bishopric to the growing town of Saint-Malo on a more secure site across the river. The Benedictine monastery of Saint Malo ...
Founded: 1146 | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.