Amiens Cathedral

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, is the tallest Gothic church and the largest 13th century cathedral in France. The enterprise of building the cathedral was undertaken by one Robert de Luzarche, in the episcopate of Evrard de Fouilloy, the forty-fifth Bishop of Amiens, whose tomb may be seen just within the western doorway, and occupies the site of other structures which had been variously devastated by fire or invasion in 850, 1019, 1137, and 1218. A light show on summer evenings, during the Christmas fair, and at New Year, is used to illustrate the colours with which the western façade of the cathedral was originally painted. The flèche at Amiens, though of late date is still in good preservation; above the ridges of the roofs of nave and transept, and octagonal in plan, are two stages, the upper one set back to allow of a passage round, and, above the cresting of the latter, a lofty octagonal spire with spire lights at the base on each side, crockets up the angles, and other decorations in the lead work with which it is covered. Including the vane, from the ridge of roof the height is 182 ft.

Timeline

  • 1220 to 1236 - The west front of the cathedral, built in a single campaign, shows an unusual degree of artistic unity.
  • 1279 - The relics of Saint Firmin were transferred to Amiens Cathedral in the presence of Philip III the Bold, King of France and Edward I of England.
  • 1366 - The south towers completed, having been built without close regard to the former design.
  • 1385 - Marriage of Charles VI of France and Isabeau of Bavaria.
  • c. 1402 - Construction of the north tower is completed.
  • End of 15th century - Great Rose Window of the western front.
  • 1528 - the first spire was destroyed by fire.
  • 1529 to 1533 - Replacement spire above the transept crossing built. The view of the ensemble from the river shows the massiveness and general proportions in a unique and superb manner.
  • 6 April 1793 - The Comité de salut public "Committee of Public Safety" is established in France with Georges Danton as its head. The cathedral was transformed into a Temple de la Raison "Temple of Reason" with the Statue of Saint Geneviève in the Chapelle Notre-Dame du Puy converted to the Goddess of Reason.
  • 1850s - Restoration of the cathedral. The lower tier of the west front with three vast deep porches is capped with a gallery of twenty-two over lifesize kings, 19th century replacements by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, which stretches across the entire façade beneath the rose window. Above the rose window rosace there is an open arcade, the galerie des sonneurs (a player of traditional music):- added by Viollet-le-Duc as a "bridge" between the two towers.
  • July 1918 - Western Front artillery bombardment. Some of the cathedral's stained window glass was broken. Intervention of Pope Benedict XV.
  • 1981 - Amiens Cathedral designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • 2000 - The three great portals of the west front cleaned with an expensive but very effective method called "photonic desincrustation," which used lasers to remove dirt and grime from the stone. Revealed underneath were traces of the original polychrome paint that decorated the sculptures.

North Portal (Portal of Saint Firmin)

  1. Zodiac signs to the left of the north portal
    1. June - Cancer
    2. July - Leo
    3. August - Virgo
    4. September - Libra
    5. October - Scorpio
    6. November - Sagittarius
  2. Zodiac signs to the right of the north portal
    1. December - Capricorn
    2. January - Aquarius
    3. February - Pisces
    4. March - Aries
    5. April - Taurus
    6. May - Gemini

Le Temps retrouvé

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) had at one point intended to name each of the volumes in the sequence, In Search of Lost Time, after a feature of cathedral architecture. When M de Charlus observes that if the "uplifted arm of St Firmin" on the cathedral of Amiens has been destroyed, "the highest affirmation of faith and energy has vanished from this world", the fictional narrator Marcel responds: "The symbol of it, Monsieur... I adore certain symbols as much as you do. But it would be absurd to sacrifice to the symbol the reality which it symbolises. Cathedrals should be adored until such time as their preservation becomes dependent on our denying the truths that they teach."

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Images on Camera and Canvas
Amiens Cathedral, South Side
Cathedral, Amiens, France, 1903.
Amazon Books
Image of THE CATHEDRALS OF FRANCE
Author: Robert Pickersgill Howgrave-Graham
Publisher: Batsford (1959)
Binding: Hardcover, 280 pages

Location

Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens
Place Notre-Dame
Amiens
France
49° 53' 42.5508" N, 2° 18' 2.79" E