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Architectural icon: Cathedral Notre Dame
Culture

Architectural icon: Cathedral Notre Dame

by Sarita Rao 3 min. 03.08.2021
Luxembourg’s iconic cathedral contains artworks from the 17th to 20th century
Three spires, one dating back to the 17th century Photo: Anouk Antony
Three spires, one dating back to the 17th century Photo: Anouk Antony

Found at the edge of the old town on Boulevard Roosevelt and Rue Notre Dame, Luxembourg City's cathedral is a fine example of late Gothic architecture with ornaments in Renaissance style and an interior that boasts Baroque and neo-Gothic ornamentation.

Designed to serve as a church for the Jesuits who arrived in Luxembourg at the turn of the 17th century and started a college in what is now the City's national library, the original church was built between 1613 and 1621.

Not always known as Our Lady

The Jesuits departed in 1773 and the church was gifted to the City, temporarily taking the name Saint Nicolas et Sainte Thérèse, before returning its affiliation to Our Lady in 1848.

It was elevated to the status of cathedral by Pope Pius IX in 1870.

Expansion and fire

The cathedral was expanded in the 1930s by Luxembourg architect Hubert Schumacher. The present nave (the side closest to Rue Notre Dame) is the original construction, whilst the choir and crypt were added by Schumacher.

The cathedral has three towers. The original Jesuit-built tower on the west-side contains the bells, whilst the east and central towers were added in the last century. The central tower is shorter with a copper peak, and is supported by steel beams constructed at Belval.

In 1985 the west tower caught fire and several of the bells were destroyed.

Artworks from several centuries

Inside, you can marvel at columns decorated with arabesques. You’ll also find many alabaster decorations including Baroque angels, and the organ tribune, the work of 17th century German sculptor Daniel Müller.

The beautiful stained-glass windows that illuminate the choir from the apse are the work of French artist Louis Barrel.

The nave’s stunning stained-glass windows were created in the 19th century and come from the workshop of Maréchal de Metz.

Our Lady the Comforter of the Afflicted is the centrepiece of the Octave procession Photo: Anouk Antony
Our Lady the Comforter of the Afflicted is the centrepiece of the Octave procession Photo: Anouk Antony

Our Lady and lion statues

The most famous icon remains the statue of Our Lady the Comforter of the Afflicted, patron saint of Luxembourg. You’ll find her at the back of the choir, wearing traditional clothing dating back to the middle ages.

It’s thought that the statue was made in 1624, and it remains the centrepiece of the Octave celebrations, although it only came to the Cathedral Notre Dame in 1794.

The bronze gates and the two lions that flank the Ducal crypt were created by Auguste Trémont (who also created the lions that flank the City Hall). The crypt is also the resting place for John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg.

In the cemetery of the cathedral stands the National Monument to the Resistance and to the Deported, its centrepiece a bronze monument entitled “Political Prisoner”, the work of the 20th century Luxembourgish sculptor, Lucien Wercollier.

Commentators have highlighted the wealth of art contained in the unusual building, but also that unlike many historical icons, it is not just a tourist attraction but has a regular attendance for mass.

Visit or tour

You can book group tours covering the ecclesiastical heritage of the City with Luxembourg City Tourist Office. Tours may have restrictions to meet Covid-19 requirements. 

If you prefer to explore on your own, Cathedral Notre Dame is open Monday to Saturday 08.00 to 18.00 and Sunday 08.00 to 19.00, subject to exceptional events and services.  


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