Apr 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Cathedral Hopping in France

I have visited many famous cathedrals in France.  The one that most all French folks call “La Grande Dame” is Notre-Dame de Paris on the island in the center of Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral is arguably the most stunning gothic cathedral in the world—and senior travelers probably recognize it as the most famous.

Conceived in the 12th century and completed in the 14th, Notre Dame Cathedral was the very heartbeat of medieval Paris. After a period of neglect, it recaptured the popular imagination when 19th-century writer Victor Hugo immortalized it in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Today France boasts some of the world’s most ancient, stunning and captivating cathedrals. Each one is a work of art and has its own personality, marked by exquisite carvings, windows and spires reaching to the sky. There are many “sacred destinations” in France but the cathedrals still hold the primary interest of tourists.

Chartres Cathedral, one of the greatest achievements in the history of architecture, is almost perfectly preserved in its original design from its famed portal sculptures to glowing stained glass. Chartres is located in the medieval town of Chartres, about 50 miles SW of Paris. The “Bleu de Chartres” color has never been matched. Chartres is the only cathedral that conveys an almost perfect image of how it looked when it was built. The stained glass windows of Chartres are world renown as is the labyrinth in the main aisle. When used for repentance the pilgrims would walk on their knees around the entire eleven-circuit design to the middle. Chartres is considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style and was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Seniors Visit the tallest Cathedral in France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens is the tallest Gothic church and largest cathedral in France.  Along with the cathedrals of Chartres and Reims, Amiens is a member of the illustrious triad of “High Gothic” or “Classical” French cathedrals built in the 13th century. Amiens Cathedral was also designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 for the beauty and harmony of its art and architecture.

Several of the kings of France were crowned in Reims Cathedral. Many seniors love visiting  Reims, the capital of champagne country where they find well-known cellars such as Dom Perignon, Krug, Mumm, Pommery, Tattinger and Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin. In one cellar…20-25 million bottles at a constant 10 to 12 degrees Celsius and 85 percent humidity.

Strasbourg Cathedral, in Alsace, officially the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg is a sight to behold. French poet and playwright Paul Claudel called the Gothic edifice a “pinky-red angel hovering over the city.” Goethe declared it to be “composed of a thousand harmonizing details” and “like the most sublime, wide-spreading tree of God, proclaiming the glory of the Lord.”

Unique in having no twin, the spire of Strasbourg cathedral was the tallest in Christendom for four centuries. Inside, several stained-glass windows were put into place between the 12th and 14th centuries, and these are especially beautiful as the sun shines into the cathedral. In 1839, Victor Hugo declared that the cathedral was a “gigantic and delicate marvel”.

Attracting around 4 million visitors each year, the Cathedral of Strasbourg is the second most-visited cathedral in France after Notre-Dame in Paris. Inside is the enormous and complex Astronomical Clock. Sculptors, painters, technicians, mathematicians and Swiss watchmakers worked together on this wonder.

With spires reaching toward the sky, buttresses a-flying, magnificent sculptures and colorful stained glass, cathedrals in France will leave you wondering how they were able to build such magnificent structures and so high.  Some of you may end up with a sore neck viewing the interior vaults, magnificent windows and high-up triforiums that abound in every cathedral.  Check out all these beauties and stand in awe.

Gentlemen, please remember to remove your hat when entering.  I actually witnessed a fellow smoking a cigar inside Notre-Dame with his huge cowboy hat on pointing his finger in a loud voice to various sites for his wife to see!  One calls these folks…”The Ugly  American!” jeb

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