Religious sites in France

Royaumont Abbey

Royaumont Abbey is a former Cistercian abbey built between 1228 and 1235 with the support of Louis IX. Several members of the French Royal family were buried here (instead of Saint Denis Basilica), for example, three children and two grandchildren of Louis IX. The abbey was dissolved in 1791 during the French Revolution and the stones were partly used to build a factory. However, the sacristy, cloister, and refectory rem ...
Founded: 1228-1235 | Location: Asnières-sur-Oise, France

St. Paul's Church

The St. Paul"s Church is a major Gothic Revival architecture building and one of the landmarks of Strasbourg. Built between 1892 and 1897 during the time of the Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen (1870–1918), the church was designed for the Lutheran members of the Imperial German garrison stationed in Strasbourg. In 1919, after the return of Alsace to France, the church was handed over to the Protestant Reformed Chur ...
Founded: 1892-1897 | Location: Strasbourg, France

Templars' Chapel

The first date known of the settlement of Templars in Metz is 1133. Between 1180 and 1220 the Templars built an octagonal chapel in Roman style outside. The inside presented a ribbed vault and the nave opens on a square choir and on a little apse. In 1312, as happened for the large majority of Templar places, the preceptory of Metz fell to the hands of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. In 1556, the chapel was converted ...
Founded: 1180-1220 | Location: Metz, France

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges Cathedral

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges Cathedral was originally built in the 12th century in Romanesque style. Over the northern and southern walls there are still Romanesque arches, the floor is made of marble and includes some tombs and sepulchurs. The cloister is also clearly Romanesque and offers an impressive view over the entire valley. The Gothic part is built in the Meridional Gothic style. There is a single nave that is ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, France

St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral

The St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. The cathedral was opened in 1912, thanks to the generosity of Russia"s Tsar Nicholas II. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Russian nobility visited Nice and the French Riviera, following the fashion established decades earlier by the English upper class and nobility. In 1864, immediately after the railway reached N ...
Founded: 1903-1912 | Location: Nice, France

Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bastia Church

The Church of Saint John the Baptist (1636) is one of the most emblematic monuments of the city of Bastia. Overlooking the Old Port, it was built from 1583 but experienced many additional worksjobs through the ages. It features a high classical façade, largely hidden by neighbouring buildings and a baroque interior from the 18th century.
Founded: 1636 | Location: Bastia, France

Cunault Abbey Church

The Abbey of Cunault was founded in 847 by monks of Noirmoutiers (an island near Nantes) who had fled the Norman invasions. In 862 further incursions forced the Benedictine monks to flee to Tournus in Burgundy where they hid the relics of their patron Saint-Philibert. They returned during the 11th century and built a prosperous priory that remained under the control of Tournus. The impressive Romanesque belfry, enlarged ...
Founded: 847 | Location: Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault, France

Nancy Cathedral

Nancy Cathedral was built at the beginning of the 18th century by architects Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Germain Boffrand. Several paintings by local artists from the 17th and 18th century are exhibited. The great organ of the cathedral of Nancy has been built from 1756 by Nicolas Dupont. One century later (1861), Aristide Cavaillé-Coll signed here its biggest work in France outside of Paris.
Founded: 1703 | Location: Nancy, France

St. Aignan Church

Saint Aignan Church was originally built around year 400, in the era of pre-Romanesque, by the bishop of Chartres - later his name has given as the name of the church. The church is considered as the most ancient parishes in Chartres. In its history, the church has suffered from several times fire in 12th, 13th and in the early 16th century. Most of the church was rebuilt after the latest misfortune in the 16th century. ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Chartres, France

St. Peter's Church

Saint Peter’s (Saint-Pierre) church was formerly an abbey church of the Benedictines. The abbey church was founded in the 7th century with the help of Queen Bathilde, the wife of Clovis II. The most important vestige of the church is a convent buildings located on the south side, later rebuilt in early 18th century, and nowadays served as a school named Lycee Marceau. The church was destroyed several times by Norma ...
Founded: ca. 1000 AD | Location: Chartres, France

Uzès Cathedral

Uzès Cathedral is a former Roman Catholic cathedral, now a parish church, dedicated to Saint Theodoritus. It was formerly the seat of the Bishops of Uzès, until the diocese was abolished under the Concordat of 1801 and its territory passed to the Diocese of Avignon. In 1877 the territory of the former diocese of Uzès was removed from that of Avignon and added to the Diocese of Nîmes, now the Dio ...
Founded: 1642-1663 | Location: Uzès, 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

St. Jacques Church

Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, the Saint-Jacques church bears evidence to various epochs. A first church was constructed on the remains of the small chapel of Sainte-Catherine, which itself was destroyed in 1195. The church that we see today, dedicated to Saint-Jacques was built around 1283. The church on the sea route of pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques of Compostella, was of vast proportions. The building was how ...
Founded: 1283 | Location: Dieppe, France

Abbey of Saint-Georges

Saint-Georges de Boscherville Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey. It was founded in about 1113 by Guillaume de Tancarville on the site of an earlier establishment of secular canons and settled by monks from the Abbey of Saint-Evroul. The abbey church made of Caumont stone was erected from 1113 to 1140. The Norman builders aimed to have very well-lit naves and they did this by means of tall, large windows, initially made ...
Founded: 1113 | Location: Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville, France

St. Jean des Vignes Abbey

The Abbey of St. Jean des Vignes was a monastery of Augustinian Canons situated in the south western hills of Soissons. Only ruins remain, of which the west front is still one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in the town. The abbey was founded on St. John"s hill in 1076 by Hughes Le Blanc. Initially built in Romanesque style, the first buildings were replaced at the end of the 12th century by those vis ...
Founded: 1076 | Location: Soissons, France

Basilica of St. Thérèse

The Basilica of St. Thérèse of Lisieux can accommodate 4,000 people, and, with more than two million visitors a year, is the second largest pilgrimage site in France, after Lourdes. Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica on 2 June 1980. St. Therese of Lisieux was beatified in 1923 and canonised in 1925. It was decided to build a large basilica dedicated to her in the city where she lived and died. Constructi ...
Founded: 1929-1954 | Location: Lisieux, France

St. Rémy Church

The first Saint-Rémy church, of which only the tower remains today, was built in the 13th century. It was built at the foot of the hill on which stands the castle. The church gradually fell to ruins and the new Saint Rémy church was built in the heart of the town. It was Thomas Bouchard, deputy mayor and treasurer of the parish who laid the first stone in 1522. The gothic centre, surrounded by an ambulatory and radiatin ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dieppe, France

Saint-Lizier Cathedrals

Saint-Lizier Cathedral can refer to either of the two former co-cathedrals of the town of Saint-Lizier, Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Sède de Saint-Lizier) and St. Lizier"s Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Lizier de Saint-Lizier), dedicated to Saint Lycerius. Saint-Lizier falls into two quite separate parts, each with its own cathedral. The lower part contains the old village arou ...
Founded: 1117 | Location: Saint-Lizier, France

Condom Cathedral

Condom Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Peter. The cathedral dominates the town, which sits on a hill above the Baïse River. It was designed at the end of the 15th century and erected from 1506 to 1531, making it one of the last major buildings in the Gers region to be constructed in the Gothic style of south-west France. The church has buttresses all around and there is a 40-metre square tower over the west fr ...
Founded: 1506-1531 | Location: Condom, France

Collegiate Church Notre-Dame

The Notre Dame Church Collegiate is considered one of the most beautiful examples of medieval architecture in France. Built between the 11th and 16th century, the collegiate contains different architectural styles. Where the altar and the transept are Romanesque style, the rest of the building was rebuilt in three different Gothic (namely Early, Flamboyant and Perpendicular Gothic) styles. The organs date back to the begi ...
Founded: 1072 | Location: Vernon, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Reims Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths. A major tourism destination, the cathedral receives about one million visitors annually.

History

Excavations have shown that the present building occupies roughly the same site as the original cathedral, founded c. 400 under the episcopacy of St Nicaise. That church was rebuilt during the Carolingian period and further extended in the 12th century. On 19 May 1051, King Henry I of France and Anne of Kiev were married in the cathedral.

On May 6, 1210 the cathedral was damaged by fire and reconstruction started shortly after, beginning at the eastern end. Documentary records show the acquisition of land to the west of the site in 1218, suggesting the new cathedral was substantially larger than its predecessors, the lengthening of the nave presumably being an adaptation to afford room for the crowds that attended the coronations. In 1233 a long-running dispute between the cathedral chapter and the townsfolk (regarding issues of taxation and legal jurisdiction) boiled over into open revolt. Several clerics were killed or injured during the resulting violence and the entire cathedral chapter fled the city, leaving it under an interdict (effectively banning all public worship and sacraments). Work on the new cathedral was suspended for three years, only resuming in 1236 after the clergy returned to the city and the interdict was lifted following mediation by the King and the Pope. Construction then continued more slowly. The area from the crossing eastwards was in use by 1241 but the nave was not roofed until 1299 (when the French King lifted the tax on lead used for that purpose). Work on the west facade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the facade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Unusually the names of the cathedral's original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after (similar to examples at Chartres and Amiens) included the names of four master masons (Jean d'Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons) and the number of years they worked there, though art historians still disagree over who was responsible for which parts of the building. The labyrinth itself was destroyed in 1779 but its details and inscriptions are known from 18th century drawings. The clear association here between a labyrinth and master masons adds weight to the argument that such patterns were an allusion to the emerging status of the architect (through their association with the mythical artificer Daedalus, who built the Labyrinth of King Minos). The cathedral also contains further evidence of the rising status of the architect in the tomb of Hugues Libergier (d. 1268, architect of the now-destroyed Reims church of St-Nicaise). Not only is he given the honor of an engraved slab; he is shown holding a miniature model of his church (an honor formerly reserved for noble donors) and wearing the academic garb befitting an intellectual.

The towers, 81 m tall, were originally designed to rise 120m. The south tower holds just two great bells; one of them, named “Charlotte” by Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine in 1570, weighs more than 10,000 kg.

During the Hundred Years' War the cathedral was under siege by the English from 1359 to 1360. After it fell the English held Reims and the Cathedral until 1429 when it was liberated by Joan of Arc which allowed the Dauphin Charles to be crowned king on 17 July 1429.

In 1875 the French National Assembly voted £80,000 for repairs of the façade and balustrades. The façade is the finest portion of the building, and one of the great masterpieces of the Middle Ages.

German shellfire during the opening engagements of the First World War on 20 September 1914 burned, damaged and destroyed important parts of the cathedral. Scaffolding around the north tower caught fire, spreading the blaze to all parts of the carpentry superstructure. The lead of the roofs melted and poured through the stone gargoyles, destroying in turn the bishop's palace. Images of the cathedral in ruins were used during the war as propaganda images by the French against the Germans and their deliberate destruction of buildings rich in national and cultural heritage. Restoration work began in 1919, under the direction of Henri Deneux, a native of Reims and chief architect of the Monuments Historiques; the cathedral was fully reopened in 1938, thanks in part to financial support from the Rockefellers, but work has been steadily going on since.

Exterior

The three portals are laden with statues and statuettes; among European cathedrals, only Chartres has more sculpted figures. The central portal, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is surmounted by a rose window framed in an arch itself decorated with statuary, in place of the usual sculptured tympanum. The 'gallery of the kings' above shows the baptism of Clovis in the centre flanked by statues of his successors.

The facades of the transepts are also decorated with sculptures. That on the North has statues of bishops of Reims, a representation of the Last Judgment and a figure of Jesus (le Beau Dieu), while that on the south side has a modern rose window with the prophets and apostles. Fire destroyed the roof and the spires in 1481: of the four towers that flanked the transepts, nothing remains above the height of the roof. Above the choir rises an elegant lead-covered timber bell tower that is 18 m tall, reconstructed in the 15th century and in the 1920s.

Interior

The interior comprises a nave with aisles, transepts with aisles, a choir with double aisles, and an apse with ambulatory and radiating chapels. It has interesting stained glass ranging from the 13th to the 20th century. The rose window over the main portal and the gallery beneath are of rare magnificence.

The cathedral possesses fine tapestries. Of these the most important series is that presented by Robert de Lenoncourt, archbishop under François I (1515-1547), representing the life of the Virgin. They are now to be seen in the former bishop's palace, the Palace of Tau. The north transept contains a fine organ in a flamboyant Gothic case. The choir clock is ornamented with curious mechanical figures. Marc Chagall designed the stained glass installed in 1974 in the axis of the apse.

The treasury, kept in the Palace of Tau, includes many precious objects, among which is the Sainte Ampoule, or holy flask, the successor of the ancient one that contained the oil with which French kings were anointed, which was broken during the French Revolution, a fragment of which the present Ampoule contains.

Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991.