Notre Dame de Paris, France

Quite possibly the most famous church in the World, Notre Dame de Paris is a Cathedral of tremendous beauty, history and elegance. It typifies the Parisian spirit of style and independence and should be on every visitor's list of must-dos.

The Cathedral was begun in 1163 when Pope Alexander III laid the first stone on the site of a Roman temple on the Ile de la Cité. It took around 170 years to bring the construction work to an end in 1330. The style of the Cathedral influenced that of every Cathedral built in France (and indeed much of Northern Europe) for the next 200 years. The familiar line up of twin towers, triple entrance and rose window can be seen on many of the greatest Cathedrals of Europe.

During the Revolution the Church was ransacked and turned into a wine store. It was restored to a Cathedral by Napoleon Bonaparte and a great period of reconstruction was begun in the 1850s.

Like all great Cathedrals Notre Dame is crammed full of priceless works of art, but little can detract from the work of art of the building itself. A trip up the bell tower is recommended, if nothing else for the superb views of the gargoyles which are possibly the most interesting in the world. Also you will get a feel for the life of that most famous of all residents, Quasimodo, Alexander Dumas' "Hunchback of Notre Dame".

Recent years have seen Notre Dame shrouded in scaffolding, but now it has emerged once more, cleaned and gleaming white its glory restored.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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and Shaun Runham
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