Notre Dame Cathedral

… and the Crypt of Notre Dame

Enc de l’Evêche
Boulogne

‘The Cathedral:‘ Entrance from the Rue de Lille

‘Open: Daily 8am-12 noon and 2pm-5pm
Entry: Free

‘The Crypt:‘ Entrance from Rue de Lille from the left porch

Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 2pm-5pm
Entry: fee payable.

The cathedral of Notre Dame, though located at the top of the haute ville (upper town) has a presence that is felt practically everywhere in town. It features a huge dome that dominate the skyline from almost everywhere.

There was a church on this site as early as the 7th century and legend has it that around 633, a deserted ship sailed into the port of Boulogne with just a statue of the Virgin Mary (also known as ‘Our Lady’ or ‘Notre Dame’ in French). The statue glowed with white light and was of a women holding a child in her left arm and the townsfolk took her to the church for safe keeping. Naturally, the church became a pilgrimage site but then the statue was taken to England by the Henry VIII’s soldiers but returned. Later a Huguenot stole the statue but again it was restored to the church. However, its final demise came during the Revolution when the church, along with its contents, were completed destroyed.

Rebuilt between 1827 and 1866 by the Abbé Haffreinge on the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral, it serves as a symbol of the revival of the French Catholic Church after the Revolution. It still contains sacred art treasures including the Reliquary of the Holy Blood in gold, silver an enamel – a masterpiece of the fourteenth century. Architecturally it is a hybrid, collectively inspired by St Paul’s Cathedral, St Peter’s in Rome, the Panthéon and Les Invalides in Paris.

Located on top of a twelth century maze of crypts, the massive structure rises to a height of 101m. Of note is the High Altar of the Princess of Torlonia – a masterpiece of the 19th century Italian Mosaic. The Cathedral crypt, Crypt of Notre Dame has the accolade of being the second largest in France.

Its fourteen chambers contain vestiges of the third-century Roman temple. The treasure chamber houses some bejewelled religious artefacts of gold and silver. The crypt was also used to house the mortal remains of the Libertador.