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Lisieux Basilica visitor guide

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Visit Lisieux Basilica, France

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The basilica of Sainte-Thérèse is an important monument in the town of Lisieux, in the west of the Calvados department of Normandy.

Explore the Basilica Sainte-Thérèse in Lisieux

France This Way comment: although it is of quite recent construction, the basilica of Sainte-Thérèse is an imposing church with impressive internal decoration and you will want to visit even if you are in the town as a tourist rather than a pilgrim

Who was Saint-Thérese?

Sainte-Thérèse was born in the town of Alençon in Normandy in 1873, and died at the young age of 24 in 1897. Her early life was quite difficult - her mother died when Thérèse was four years old, and she was then looked after by her older sisters until they became nuns and left home.

Saint-Thérèse herself became a carmelite nun in Lisieux in 1888, having travelled to Rome to get permission from the pope to enter the order at a younger age than was usually permitted.

She is best known for her writings, and several hundred million copies of her most important book called Story of a Soul have been sold in the world, teaching that we should live with kindness to others in all our actions and thoughts.

interior of Lisieux basilica

The basilica Sainte-Thérèse

The basilica was built on the edge of Lisieux in the first half of the 20th century, after Sainte-Thérèse had been made into a saint, in order to provide a centre for pilgrims who were attracted by the history of the saint.

The building is in an imposing position on the edge of the town centre, on a raised area from where it dominates the centre of Lisieux. This effect is emphasised by the open area and the series of large steps that lead to the entrance.

The outside of the basilica is in the neo-byzantine style, and also includes neo-romanesque elements. The facade has small towers either side, incorporates a row of seven statues, and has a triangular fronton above with a statue of Sainte-Thérèse.

Aspects of this style of architecture can also be seen in Perigueux cathedral, as well as the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre in Paris, which acted as inspiration for Lisieux basilica.

Side wings to each side of the facade and pierced with arches, each wing ending with an additional tower, further help to give the basilica a substantial appearance: these are the front of the cloisters of the basilica.

Inside, the basilica follows a traditional 'latin cross' design with a nave, transept and altar with a large dome above the transept.

The dome is supported on columns and windows inserted betweeen the columns, allowing more light to enter the interior of the basilica. It is possible to climb the 300 stairs to the inside of the dome for further impresive views of the mosaics and views of the exterior (the rest of the visit is free, but there is a small charge to climb the stairs).

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The interior of the basilica Saint-Thérèse is very impressive, with mosaics in bright colours covering many of the surfaces including the half-dome above the apse and the interior of the main dome. The principal mosaic, above the apse, shows Christ with the Virgin Mary and a flock of sheep, and the other mosaics represent other characters and stories from the Bible.

The overall impression is of a very impressive basilica, filled with light and with numerous colourful mosaics, that are the highlight of your visit.

In the south transept of the basilica you can see a ciborium, a large structure built to hold the relics of Sainte-Thérèse and where part of the arm of the saint can be seen.

The crypt of the basilica is also impressive, with further mosaics and paintings on the ceiling and arches, and including more recent mosaics that depict evets from the life of Sainte-Thérèse. The shrine of Louis-Martin and Zélie Martin, the parents of Thérèse and both made saints in 2008, is also in the crypt.

crypt in the basilica of Lisieux

Attractions nearby

Of course, you will also want to explore the town of Lisieux while you are here - as well as the Basilica of Sainte-Thérèse you can also visit the 13th century cathedral: see the Lisieux guide.

See more churches in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Calvados guide and the Normandy guide.

See also: 

Photos of Lisieux Basilica

Click any picture to start the gallery

  • exterior (1)
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Map of Lisieux Basilica and places nearby

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Visit near Lisieux Basilica with France This Way reviews

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... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Calvados

The French version of this page is at Lisieux Basilica (Francais)

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