Notre-Dame Cathedral (Kathedral Notre-Dame in Luxembourgish, Cathédrale Notre-Dame in French and Kathedrale unserer lieben Frau in German) is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Luxembourg City, in southern Luxembourg. It was originally a Jesuit church, and its cornerstone was laid in 1613. It is the only cathedral in Luxembourg.
The church is a noteworthy example of late gothic architecture; however, it also has many Renaissance elements and adornments. At the end of the 18th century, the church received the miraculous image of the Maria Consolatrix Afflictorum, the patron saint of both the city and the nation.
Around 50 years later, the church was consecrated as the Church of Our Lady and in 1870, it was elevated by Pope Pius IX to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame.
At the cemetery of the cathedral is the National Monument to the Resistance and to the Deportation. The centerpiece of the monument is the famous bronze monument by the 20th century Luxembourgish sculptor Lucien Wercollier called The Political Prisoner.
Jesuits from Belgium, which like Luxembourg belonged to the Spanish Netherlands at the time, opened a college in Luxembourg city in 1603, where the majority of young Luxembourgers were taught until 1773. The first stone of the church was laid on May 7, 1613, under Father François Aldenard. The constructor of the building was Ulrich Job, from Lucerne. Under him, the decoration of the columns also took place. The Jesuit church was consecrated and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception on October 17, 1621, by auxiliary bishop Georg von Helfenstein.
Artistically, it was above all the German sculptor Daniel Muller (d. 1623) from Freiberg (Saxony) who contributed to the appearance of the church, his work including the organ tribune. The decorations in alabaster, a favorite material of Dutch Renaissance sculptors, represent early Baroque angels, who play music between leaves and floral decorations.
After the Jesuits had left the city in 1773, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria gifted the church to the City of Luxembourg in 1778, and it became the new parish church under the name “Saint Nicolas et Sainte Thérèse”. This was convenient, as at the time the old parish church, the church of St. Nicholas on the Krautmaart was small and decrepit, and was demolished in 1779. For this reason, a statue of St. Nicholas stands over the Cathedral entrance in Rue Notre-Dame.
It received the name “Notre-Dame” on March 31, 1848, under the apostolic vicar Jean-Théodore Laurent. His successor, Nicolas Adames, had the Baroque interior refurbished from 1854 in a neo-Gothic style. When Luxembourg was elevated to a bishopric by Pope Pius IX on June 27, 1870, the Notre-Dame Church became Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Though a noteworthy example of late gothic architecture, the Cathedral has many Renaissance elements and adornments. The Cathedral has three towers, the west tower, which was the tower of the Jesuit church and which contains the bells, the east tower, and the central tower, which stands over the transept.
From 1935 to 1938, the Cathedral was enlarged and expanded. This enlargement, which influence the silhouette of the fortress city of Luxembourg, went ahead according to plans by and under the supervision of the Luxembourgish architect Hubert Schumacher. The expanded area, which connects to the two choir bays of 1613-1621, characterizes the image of the former Jesuit church both due to its spaciousness and through the architectural unity. The rebuilding of the exterior architecture on the Gothic-style cathedral presented a challenge, since the goal was to harmoniously integrate the church with the surrounding buildings, such as the former Athénée building from the 17th century, the national library, the old church of St. Maximin (1751) (now the Foreign Ministry), as well as the old residential houses.
When the Cathedral was enlarged in 1935-1938, the east and central towers were added. The central tower, which is only a third of the height of the other towers, consists of a wide, pyramid-shaped base and a narrow peak covered with copper. The roof itself is carried by a steel frame, consisting of two PN20 beams from ARBED-Belval.
On Good Friday, April 5, 1985, around mid-day, work on the roof caused the west tower to catch fire. The church bells, i.e. the Virgin Mary bell, the Willibrord bell, the Peter bell, and the Cunigunde bell were destroyed in the fire. When the tower collapsed, the roof of the central aisle was also partly damaged. It took until October 17, 1985, for the tower to be repaired.
The crypt of the Cathedral contains the remains of members of the Grand-Ducal family. The following persons are interred here:
- John of Bohemia (1296–1346)
- Marie-Adélaïde, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1894–1924)
- Marie Anne of Portugal, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1861–1942) – (Consort of Grand Duke William IV)
- Felix of Bourbon-Parma (1893–1970) – (Consort of Grand Duchess Charlotte)
- Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1896–1985)
- Joséphine Charlotte of Belgium, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1927–2005) – (Consort of Grand Duke Jean)
Starting in the 2nd century, Catholics venerated Mary as Our Lady of Consolation, one of her earliest titles of honor. The title of “Our Lady of Consolation”, or “Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted”, comes from the Latin Consolatrix Afflictorum. It is found in the Litany of Loreto.
The devotion to Our Lady of Luxembourg, Comforter of the Afflicted, was initiated by the Jesuits in 1624 and led to the election of Our Lady as the protectress of the City in 1666 and of the Duchy in 1678. After the destruction of the old pilgrimage chapel at the time of the French Revolution, the statue of Our Lady of Luxembourg was moved to St. Peter church, today’s Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City. Statues depicting her can be found in niches in buildings throughout the city of Luxembourg. From there the devotion was adopted by the English Benedictine nuns of Cambrai.
On May 18, 1978, Luxembourg issued a single 6-franc stamp marking the 300th anniversary of Notre-Dame Cathedral and portraying a statue of Our Lady of Luxembourg, the cathedral’s patroness. The multicolor stamp was printed using the photogravure process and is comb-perforated 11¾. Courvoisier printed 1,000,000 copies of the stamp.