Considered one of the Auvergne region’s best examples of Romanesque architecture, this magnificent church draws thousands of visitors each year.
Although not France’s most famous notre-dame, Clermont-Ferrand’s Basilica of Notre-Dame du Port, a Romanesque beauty, is really worth a visit. Choose a sunny day to see the glorious stained-glass windows at their best.
The basilica was built in the early 12th century and was originally named Sainte Marie Principale (Main Church of Saint Mary) in dedication to the Virgin Mary. However, the name later changed to represent its position in the city’s port quarter. After your visit to the church, take the time to wander the rest of the quarter, which is one of the city’s most picturesque areas.
Visit the church and you will be following in the footsteps of 12th-century pilgrims, who stopped here on their way to the holy destination of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The church still attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has been protected by UNESCO since 1998.
The basilica is one of five Romanesque “major churches” in the Auvergne region. The style, in contrast to Gothic architecture, is highly regarded for its simplicity. Common features include symmetrical floor plans, large towers and round arches.
Notice the many impressive details of the basilica as you inspect its beautiful exterior and exterior. It features many colors of stone inlay, designed in arresting eight-pointed star and checkerboard patterns. The building is constructed from arkose, a type of sandstone. The entire building underwent a lengthy 5-year restoration, completed in 2008. Marvel at the workmanship, both old and new.
At the southern entrance to the building, you will find intricate stone carvings. Of particular note are the beautifully detailed nativity scenes above the doorway. Head inside the church to experience the outside light through the basilica’s amazing 19th-century stained glass windows. Inside you will also find intricate sculptures, including one of the Virgin Mary that dates back to the 14th or 15th century.
The church is located to the northeast of Clermont-Ferrand city center and is easily accessible on foot, tram or bus. Check for any special events before visiting if you want to be sure of avoiding disappointment. However, visitors are welcome on most afternoons.