Notre-Dame Basilica is the oldest church in Fribourg, its construction dating back to the early 13th century. The current decor dates from the 18th century. Its treasures include a Neapolitan nativity scene.
Archaeologists estimate that the church of Our Lady existed before the foundation of Fribourg: the Romanesque church of 1201 followed on from an earlier chapel. This sanctuary served as a place of worship for the dukes of Zahringen and a neighbouring hospital.
The building underwent major transformations in the 15th century. The only remaining examples of liturgical furnishings from the period are the stalls, from 1508.
A complete renovation of the basilica in the 18th century gave it the style of the period ("Louis XVI"). The classical facade, the bell tower, the five unequal bays crowned by a decorated ceiling, the interior surfacing and the columns coated with staff (plaster reinforced with fibres, a construction material of the time) are from this period. The German-born rococo painter Gottfried Locher created the frescoes and altar paintings (1786). The 1st century recumbent statue visible in the nave is surrounded by inscriptions in uncial, a historic Latin script.
Major restoration work – lasting 25 years! – completed in 2011 showcases the various works.
The Neapolitan nativity scene exhibited near the entrance is unique. It contains 75 figurines, the oldest dating from the 18th century. The characters' straw bodies, wooden limbs and terracotta heads are hinged on a metal framework. They were crafted by renowned sculptors, while theatre producers created the sets and arrangement. We can see the Nativity and the Wise Men in front of a Roman ruin: this was the period in which Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered.
Scenes of everyday life are represented to the right of the nativity: a tavern, a market, and even courtesans on the balcony!
The church is open every day from 8.30am to 7.15pm (6pm on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday evening)
Sacristy can be visited on request (contact: 026 488 00 37)