On your right when you’re facing the church is the statue of Charlemagne (“Charles the Great”). On the left doorway is St. Denis holding his head. He was the first martyr of France, decapitated by a jealous king for preaching Christianity. Legend has it that he picked up his head and walked to the village of St. Denis (head in hand) where he is now buried. In the center is Christ Sitting on the Throne of Judgment with those damned to hell on the right in chains and those destined for heaven on the left. The twin towers are 226 feet high. You can climb the 387 steps of the north tower for a grand view of Paris. The famous gargoyles are found between the towers. The 295-foot-tall spire was added in 1860. Along the spire’s base are apostles and evangelists (and the architect looking up to his spire). On the sides of the church are the famous “flying buttresses” (50-foot beams that support the Gothic structure).
The cathedral is so huge that it can accommodate over 6,000 visitors. The interior is dominated by three beautiful (and immense) rose windows, and has a 7,800-pipe organ. Inside along the walls are individual chapels dedicated to saints. The most famous chapel is that of Joan of Arc in the right transept. The sacristy houses relics, manuscripts and religious garments. On Good Friday, what is said to be the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the cross on which Christ was crucified are put on public display. The Crown of Thorns is also displayed every 1st Friday of the month as well as Fridays during Lent. The reliquaries for the Crown (which has lost all of its thorns to different religious sites around the world) are on display daily in the treasury.
Events of note here include the crowning of Napoléon as emperor and the funeral of Charles de Gaulle. For more information on the cathedral and other sights in Paris, check out our Paris Walks and Paris Made Easy guides.