The Gothic style of one of the most beloved churches in the world is echoed in cathedrals outside Paris.
Last month, the whole world expressed shock and despair as fire ripped through the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, arguably one of the most well-known churches in the world. What could have resulted into a catastrophe luckily turned out to be serious but manageable damage, with millionaires from across the world pitching in to support restoration works to return the Catholic landmark to its full splendor. In the meantime, visitors to France may be relieved to know that Gothic cathedrals “a-la-Notre-Dame” can be found all around Paris, from the suburban town of Saint Denis to northern city of Amiens and the southern city of Chartres.
These cathedrals were all built between 1140 and 1500, when the French state started to develop out of Ile de France into Paris’ surrounding region. At the time, the Kings of France were relying on advice from Suger, the abbot of Saint Denis, who was a trained historian and theologian. Suger, credited for “inventing” the Gothic style, ordered the renovation of the Cathedral of Saint Denis in a suburb just outside modern-day Paris in 1137. The choir of Saint Denis Cathedral is to this date considered the earliest example of Gothic style in Europe.
Gothic style featured the innovative development of elements that had already been in use in the Romanesque period, such as the pointed arch, ribbed vaults and stained glass windows. Thanks to more elaborate structural solutions, Gothic buildings were much taller and slimmer compared with the bulky Romanesque style. Rose windows were also much larger, allowing for an enhanced mystical effect in the church’s interiors. Statues depicting biblical scenes had already been used in the Romanesque period, but it was really during the Gothic period that architects made abundant use of elaborate sculptures to decorate buildings facades. The end results were imposing but “light” structures that really conveyed an idea of the sacred both inside and outside.
Here is a list of the most notable examples of the “other Notre-Dames.”