Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Call me crazy, but seeing Notre Dame Cathedral was not on my Paris bucket list prior to arriving in France. What was I thinking? Peter and I actually passed by it the first time without even stopping and accidentally stumbled upon it the second time, only drawn in by the crowds and bleachers out front. Though many times while traveling, large crowds equate to a Disneyland-like attraction, this was different.

Notre Dame may not be the largest Catholic cathedral in the world, but it might be one of the most beautiful and famous with an estimated 14 million visitors a year.

14 million and one if you now include me.

We got into the growing line, which surprisingly moved rather swiftly, to enter this masterpiece of French gothic architecture. At the entrance doorway, I reached for the Euros in my handbag prepared to fork over a handful in order to witness what was inside. But, there was no cashier, no ticket booth and no charge.

It’s free to get inside of Notre Dame Cathedral. Go.

Stepping into this spiritual place took my breath away. It would be hard not to be impressed by its high arched stonework, ornate hanging chandeliers and spectacular stained glass.

Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

As at most churches we have visited while traveling around the world, we lit candles for our special grandmothers who had passed on. It truly is a time where I feel closest to my nonna, knowing how religious she was.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Doing this always reminds me of something she said to me while she was knitting blankets for the needy, a few weeks before she passed away, “I’m ready whenever God is ready to take me”. There is something comforting about knowing she was ready to leave us, even though I was not ready for her to go.

Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

After the lighting of the candles, I was taking a picture of the public mass times displayed on the wall vowing to return the next day during the specified services, when bells started to chime. We were at the Notre Dame cathedral at exactly the right time to attend mass.

Seriously? That never randomly happens to me. 

We took seats in a faraway pew where photography was still allowed. Though, we quickly ended up moving to the second row from the front for a better view. The service was completely in French, which I do not speak an ounce of, unless you count bonjour and oui, oui.  Those two words did not get me too far in this mass, so I simply tried to follow the appropriate Catholic church procedure: stand when others stand, sit when they sit and hum when they start to sing.

Even though I didn’t understand a word, the echoing of the sermon, the chandeliers dangling overhead and the many other worshippers being present made this a spiritual experience not to be forgotten and that’s why it even made my list of 45 Amazing Things to do Before You Die.

13 thoughts on “Attend Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France”

  1. That’s what I love about Paris cathedrals: that they’re free. It annoys me how expensive the ones in London are. I’ve never been to mass in Notre Dame, but Evensong in Westminster Abbey is definitely worth attending. (Also, because it’s a way of getting inside without having to pay!)

  2. Hi Annette!

    This is one of the many things I STILL regret not doing in Paris….I saw the Cathedral, went inside but always wished I had stayed for a service. Alas, it’s on my list now! The other thing I didn’t do in Paris was go to the Moulin Rouge why not?!?!?! (because i thought it was too touristy) WHO CARES!

  3. If you ever go to Montreal the ND basilica Montreal is unbelievable. I think Celine dion got married there. Google image it, and that’s only a glimpse of how great it is!! Cheers Annette!

  4. Notre Dame is stunning. I have not been to mass there, but I did go to midnight mass in Pisa’s cathedral. :)

  5. This article made me want to cry. I did the same thing, lite a candle for my granmother who was very religious. I even brought her a postcard and sent it back to Australia of the Notre Dame, which I know she treasured.

    She passed away sadly not so long ago but I know shes in a better place. She used to say the same thing as your nona “I’m ready whenever god wants to take me”

    Nice artilce

    • I love the idea of sending her a postcard from all the places I visited and wish she was still around to do so! I miss her terribly, but know her life was filled with love. I hope you feel the same about your grandmother :)

  6. I love the architecture of this place. Especially the big columns, Look very fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  7. I agree with you Annette, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in Paris. I like the naturalism of its figures and stained glass are conversely with prior Romanesque structural engineering. The house of prayer treasury is striking for its relics and reverences which depict some of Catholicism’s generally critical and most featured relics incorporating the indicated Crown of Thorns, a piece of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.


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