Paris Free Sights: The other Notre Dames de Paris

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Notre Dame de Lorette with Sacre Coeur behind. Photos by Liz Webber.
Notre Dame de Lorette with Sacre Coeur behind. Photos by Liz Webber.

Thanks in part to the cult of the Virgin Mary that spread throughout France in the Middle Ages, there are some 40-odd churches, chapels and basilicas named “Notre Dame” in Paris. Everyone knows about the famous cathedral, but what about the other 41 églises?

We present you with five of the largest and most interesting “Autres” Dames de Paris, representing the diverse quartiers of the city.

The Basilique Notre Dames des Victoires

Basilique Notre Dame des Victoires

Basilique Notre Dame des Victoires

One of two basilicas bearing the name “Our Lady” in Paris, you’ll find the Basilique Notre Dames des Victoires on the Place des Petit Pères in the 2nd Arrondissement. Construction began in 1629, financed by Louis XIII, who also gave the church its name. During the Revolution the Augustinian friars who lived there were expelled and Notre Dame des Victoires was converted into a stock market.

It reopened as a place of worship in 1809, but few congregants returned to the church. The local priest was about to call it quits in 1836 when he received a divine message telling him to reconsecrate the church to the “Immaculate Heart of the Very Saintly Virgin.” Soon, pilgrims were flocking to the site. The inside walls of the building are covered in plaques bearing the prayers of the faithful from around this time. Notre Dame des Victoires became a basilica in 1927.

Visiting: The building is open to the public 7:30 AM to 7:45 PM Monday through Saturday and 8:30 AM to 7:45 PM on Sunday.

Notre Dames des Champs

Notre Dame des Champs

Notre Dame des Champs

The first divine being to be worshiped at this site was Mercury, the Roman god of commerce. When the first Christians arrived in the Paris region, they rededicated the existing shrine to Mary under the name “Notre Dame des Vignes.” King Robert the Pious (996-1031) decided to rebuild the church, and around the same time the name was changed to “Notre Dame des Champs” because the vines (“vignes”) had been torn down.

The church enjoyed fame under the reign of Louis XIV, but unfortunately the building was destroyed during the Revolution. The first stone of the current church was laid in 1867, in 1876 the building was dedicated, and the archbishop of Paris oversaw the consecration in 1912.

Notre Dame des Champs borders the 6th and 14th Arrondissements at 92 bis Boulevard du Montparnasse. The spacious nave lets in quite a bit of light, even on rainy days. To take a full tour of the church, follow the stations of the cross beginning at the front on the left side, continuing around the back and up the other side.

Visiting: Opening hours are between 9 AM and 12:30 PM and 2 PM and 5:30 PM, except for Sunday when the church closes at 5 PM.

Notre Dame de Lorette

I must admit to being a bit partial to Notre Dame de Lorette because it’s in my neighborhood in the 9th Arrondissement, at 8 bis Rue de Châteaudun. If you stand far enough down the Rue Laffitte, directly across from the front entrance, there’s an amazing view of Notre Dame de Lorette with Sacré Coeur looming in the background (see photo, above).

With its elaborate Corinthian columns and imposing Latin transcription over the door, it’s not hard to see that the church was modeled after Roman basilicas. The neoclassic architect Hippolyte Lebas designed the building, which was constructed between 1823 and 1836. (You’ll find a street bearing the architect’s name not far here, just a ways up the Rue des Martyrs.)

Visiting: Notre Dame de Lorette is open Monday from 11 AM to 7:30 PM; Tuesday to Friday from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM; Saturday from 9 AM to 12 PM and 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM; and Sunday 9 AM to 12:30 PM and 2:30 PM to 7 PM.

Notre Dame de Clignancourt

Notre Dames de Clignancourt

Notre Dame de Clignancourt

The first stone of Notre Dame de Clignancourt was laid by the great civic planner Baron Haussmann in 1859, and it opened its doors in 1863. Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, endowed the church with furniture and objects of worship, much of which was plundered during the Paris Commune in 1870.

The interior of Notre Dame de Clignancourt is a bit dark, but it does have lovely modern stained-glass windows. The pretty chapel behind the altar is definitely worth a look. Located at 2 Place Jules Joffrin in the 18th Arrondissement, the church is directly opposite from the neighborhood’s mairie (town hall building), which is also an architectural gem.

Visiting: Notre Dame de Clignancourt is open from 9 AM to 12:30 PM and 2 PM to 7:30 PM, except on Sundays when it closes at 5:30 PM.

Notre Dame de la Croix

Notre Dame de la Croix

Notre Dame de la Croix

Notre Dame de la Croix is by far the largest church on our list. The steeple is visible from blocks away over the roofs of the surrounding buildings. To fully appreciate the enormity of the structure, start at the far end of Rue Etienne Dolet and walk up to the main entrance at 3 Place de Ménilmontant (in the 20th Arrondissement).

Originally, a small chapel opening in 1847 served the Catholic community in this neighborhood. However, the chapel became too small, and construction began on the current church in 1863. The work was interrupted by the Commune, but was finally finished in 1880.

Notre Dame de la Croix gets its name from a statue owned by the monks of Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie that was hidden in the Ménilmontant neighborhood during the Revolution. The statue was stolen in 1975 and then recovered, but was later stolen again and never returned.

Visiting: The church is open Monday through Saturday from 7 AM to 7:30 PM; on Thursday until 10 PM; and Sunday 7:30 AM to 7 PM.

Discover more Notre Dames

To visit even more of the churches named for the Virgin Mary, you can try looking them up on the websites for each arrondissement, which all follow the same formula (example: the website of the 5th is Once there, search for “lieux de culte” in the “rechercher” box. Not all the websites list places of worship, but it’s a good starting place.

Do you know of any other intriguing Notre Dame that we might have missed? Tell us about it in the comments section!

About the author

About the author: Liz Webber is a freelance journalist living and working in Paris. She has previously worked for the International Herald Tribune and Budget Travel.

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