5 must-see Gothic cathedrals in Northern France

5 must-see Gothic cathedrals in Northern France

by Robert Königshausen
Stripes Europe

France is not only a beautiful country filled with delicious food and quaint villages, but it’s also the country of Gothic cathedrals. Notre Dame in Paris, the most popular cathedral in France, is currently closed for repair. Nevertheless, If you like to visit some masterpieces and are unsure where to start, check out these cathedrals below for inspiration.  

The beautiful cathedral in Reims. | Photo by Robert Königshausen.


Notre-Dame de Reims, built from 1211 on, is a fine example of great architecture. The exterior shows the characteristic double-tower-facade, although the towers remain unfinished. The interior is remarkably well-balanced, close to perfection. In fact, it is known as one of the best examples of French Gothic style and was modeled for a great number of churches at that time. From the 5th century on, nearly all French kings got crowned in this cathedral.

Saint-Ètienne in Metz. | Photo by Robert Königshausen.


Saint-Ètienne was built from 1220 on. Due to its location at the edge of town and next to a slope, this high-rising building is quite slender. As a result, the colorful window panes create wonderful light effects in the interior, giving it the nickname “God’s lantern.“ The sculptures on the outside are mostly medieval beasts.




Notre-Dame de Chartres, built in 1194, is held for the embodiment of a Gothic cathedral. The richness of sculptures, most of them still the original ones, count as the beginning of illustrated stories in medieval Europe. Most of the colored windows are original, manufactured around 1240 A.D., making it the largest surviving glass-area from that period. A special blue (Chartres blue) was invented here. This color is known for its purity.

The intricate facade of Notre Dame d’Amiens. | Photo by Robert Königshausen.


Built in 1137, Notre Dame d’Amiens, is the biggest medieval church in France, with the highest central nave. It was model after the Gothic cathedrals of Cologne and St. Patrick’s in New York City, but was partly reconstructed in the 16th and 19th century. On the floors, you can see the pattern of a labyrinth. It’s not a maze, but an intertwined way meant to emblematize a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.


Saint-Pierre, constructed in  1247, challenged the size of the church in Amiens. The master builders wanted to outmatch them. According to the plans, it was the biggest church ever meant to be. Starting with the choir, the daring construction collapsed. In a second try, with revised plans, they finished the crossing with its tower that was 153 meters high. For a short time, it was the highest landmark in Europe but unfortunately collapsed. Because the church ran out of money and the Gothic period was over the cathedral was unfinished.

The astronomical clock from 1866 is a mechanical masterpiece, and also works as a musical clock, which is demonstrated several times a day.

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