Cathedrals in France

Tours Cathedral

Saint Gatien's Cathedral was built between 1170 and 1547. The first cathedral of Saint-Maurice was built by Litorius (Lidoire), bishop of Tours from 337 to 371 (preceding St Martin). Burnt in 561, it was restored by Gregory of Tours and rededicated in 590. Its location, at the south-west angle of the castrum, as well as its eastern orientation, resulted in the original access being through the late-Roman surrounding wall ...
Founded: 1170-1547 | Location: Tours, France

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 12 ...
Founded: 1239 | Location: Quimper, France

Vannes Cathedral

The first Vannes Cathedral was erected around 1020 in Romanesque style. The tower is only structure left from it and accommodates the four bells of the church. The present Gothic building was erected on the site of the former cathedral. Its construction extends from the 15th to the 19th centuries, or if the length of the existence of the 13th century Romanesque bell tower is included, a total of seven centuries of constru ...
Founded: c. 1020 | Location: Vannes, France

Toulouse Cathedral

The exact date of the original Toulouse Cathedral is unknown; the first mention of a church building on that site is found in a charter of 844. In 1073 the bishop of Toulouse commenced work on a more elaborate structure, followed by additional construction in the 13th century. The irregular west front exists because the cathedral consists of two incomplete churches, the first dating from the early 13th century, which inc ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Toulouse, France

Beauvais Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Peter of Beauvais is, in some respects, the most daring achievement of Gothic architecture, and consists only of a transept (16th-century) and choir, with apse and seven polygonal apsidal chapels (13th-century), which are reached by an ambulatory. A small Romanesque church dating back to the 10th-century, known as the Basse Œuvre, still occupies the site destined for the nave of the Beauvais ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Beauvais, France

Montpellier Cathedral

Montpellier Cathedral was originally attached to the monastery of Saint-Benoît, which was founded in 1364. The building was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1536, when the see of Maguelonne was transferred to Montpellier. After the building suffered extensive damage during the Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th century, it was rebuilt in the 17th century.
Founded: 1364 | Location: Montpellier, France

Angers Cathedral

Angers Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice d'Angers) was constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries on the orders of bishops Normand de Doué and Guillaume de Beaumont after the original building burnt down in 1032. The original Romanesque church was rebuilt with Gothic details in the mid 12th century. The single-aisle plan was vaulted with pointed arches resting on a re-clad interior elevation. The nave cons ...
Founded: 12th-13th centuries | Location: Angers, France

Rennes Cathedral

The site of current Rennes Cathedral has been used for a cathedral more or less from the beginnings of the see in the 6th century. The earliest building was completely replaced by a Gothic cathedral in the 12th century, of which in 1490 the tower and the entire west front collapsed. The existing façade with its neoclassical granite towers in four stages was constructed over the next two centuries or so, with long g ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Rennes, France

Bayonne Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Bayonne is the seat of the former Bishops of Bayonne, now the Bishops of Bayonne, Lescar, and Oloron. The cathedral is in the Gothic architectural tradition. The site was previously occupied by a Romanesque cathedral that was destroyed by two fires in 1258 and 1310. Construction of the present cathedral began in the 13th century and was completed at the beginning of the 17th, exce ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bayonne, France

Poitiers Cathedral

Poiters Cathedral construction began in 1162 by Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine on the ruins of a Roman basilica, and work was well advanced by the end of the 12th century. It is the largest medieval monument in the city of Poitiers. It is built in the Romanesque and Early Gothic styles, the latter predominating. It consists of three naves almost equal in height and width, all three of which decrease towards ...
Founded: 1162 | Location: Poitiers, France

Arras Cathedral

The original cathedral of Arras, constructed between 1030 and 1396, was one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in northern France, until it was destroyed in the French Revolution. The cathedral was the resting place of Louis de Bourbon, Légitimé de France, illegitimate son of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière. In 1833 the church of the former St. Vaast"s Abbey was rebuilt in classical sty ...
Founded: 1833 | Location: Arras, France

Auxerre Cathedral

Auxerre Cathedral is known for its expansive stained glass windows. Most of the Burgundian Gothic cathedral was built between 1215 and 1233 above an 11th-century crypt. Construction continued until the 1540s when the cupola, in Renaissance style that takes the place of one pinnacle on the completed tower, was completed. The first building campaign erected the chevet at the liturgical east end, followed later in the centur ...
Founded: 1215-1233 | Location: Auxerre, France

Vence Cathedral

The Cathedral Notre Dame de la Nativité, built in the 4th century took its final shape in the 12th century. The Tower Saint Lambert, vestige of the Bishop"s Palace of France dates from the same period.  Inside, the size of the building can be surprising, but one is very quickly charmed by all the marvels which it contains: a fragment of a sarcophagus with low Gallo-Roman reliefs, pieces of Carolingian sculptures an ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Vence, France

Nîmes Cathedral

Nîmes Cathedral is believed to stand on the site of the former Roman temple of Augustus. It is partly Romanesque and partly Gothic in style. The first cathedral was consecrated in 1096. The current appearance dates mainly from the 17th century. In 1822 the original Romanesque portal was demolished. The organ dates from 1643.
Founded: 1096 | Location: Nîmes, France

Ajaccio Cathedral

The present Ajaccio cathedral was built between 1577 and 1593 and is attributed to Italian architect Giacomo della Porta. It was built to replace the former Cathedral of Saint-Croix, destroyed in 1553 in order to make room for developments in the city"s defenses, as stated in the permit required by the Council of Ancients in 1559 to the Senate of Genoa and Pope Gregory XIII in order to build a new cathedral. ...
Founded: 1577-1593 | Location: Ajaccio, France

Elne Cathedral

The Romanesque style Elne Cathedral was consecrated in 1069. In 1285, during the Aragonese Crusade, French troops sacked the town and massacred the townspeople who had taken refuge in the cathedral. Work began on rebuilding the cathedral in the 14th century but was never finished, which explains the irregular appearance of the main facade - the tower on the right was built at this time but not the tower on the left, so a ...
Founded: 1069 | Location: Elne, France

Saint-Brieuc Cathedral

Saint-Brieuc Cathedral was the seat of the Bishopric of Saint-Brieuc, one of the nine ancient dioceses of Brittany, and continues to be the seat of the enlarged Bishopric of Saint-Brieuc-Tréguier, as it has been known since 1852. Some of the relics of Saint Brieuc himself, the 6th-century founder, are still kept in the cathedral. The present building however was built in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Saint-Brieuc, France

Rodez Cathedral

Rodez Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez) is a national monument and is the seat of the Bishopric of Rodez. The closed west front once formed part of the city wall of Rodez.  Rodez was Christianized in the 4th-5th century AD, and the first mention of a cathedral dates from around 516. This structure was rebuilt c. 1000; almost nothing remains of it after the decision to rebuild it from scratch in 1276. The wo ...
Founded: 1276 | Location: Rodez, France

Mirepoix Cathedral

Mirepoix Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Maurice de Mirepoix) foundation stone was laid by Jean de Lévis on the 6th May 1298. Construction continued, with interruptions, over the next six centuries. The cathedral was restored in 1858 and 1859. The cathedral has the second widest Gothic arch in Europe (after Girona in Catalonia, Spain). Inside the cathedral vandalism and demolitions has destroyed many treasures ...
Founded: 1298 | Location: Mirepoix, France

Béziers Cathedral

St.Nazaire cathedral is te main sight in Béziers. This grandiose Romanesque cathedral dates from the 13th century. It was erected on the site of an earlier building which was destroyed during the Massacre at Béziers in the Albigensian Crusade. It occupies one of the best sites in town: from the concourse in front of the cathedral there are beautiful views out over the surrounding vineyards and towards the fo ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Béziers, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.