Cathedrals in France

Dol Cathedral

Dol Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Samson de Dol) was formerly the seat of the Archbishop of Dol, one of the nine ancient bishoprics of Brittany. The archbishopric was suppressed during the French Revolution and abolished by the Concordat of 1801, when it was merged into the dioceses of Rennes and St. Brieuc. The building is notable for its eclectic mix of styles and idiosyncrasies, such as the incomplete north tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Dol-de-Bretagne, France

Agde Cathedral

Agde Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Stephen and stands on the bank of the Hérault River. The present building was constructed in the 12th century, beginning in 1173 under the direction of bishop William II of Agde, and replaced a Carolingian church of the 9th century that stood on the foundations of a 5th-century Roman church, formerly a temple of Diana. The cathedral is remarkable for being built of black basalt from ...
Founded: 1173 | Location: Agde, France

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral

Saint-Pol-de-Léon Cathedral was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, a bishopric established in the 6th century and abolished under the Concordat of 1801, when its territory was transferred to the Diocese of Quimper. It is dedicated to its 6th-century founder, the first bishop Saint Paul Aurelian. He was originally from Wales and he is considered to have been the first bishop of the L&eacut ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Saint-Pol-de-Léon, France

Lectoure Cathedral

The former Lectoure Cathedral dominates the town and the belfry tower of 1488 can be seen at a distance as the town is approached. The repairs and modifications of the cathedral go back to the 12th century. The unadorned west front erected in the 15th century has been modified through the ages, and niches above the door have all but melted away due to the fragility of the limestone. The nave was vaulted at the end of th ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lectoure, France

Le Havre Cathedral

Le Havre Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Havre) was previously a parish church dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and is the oldest of the very few buildings in central Le Havre to have survived the devastation of World War II. It became a cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Le Havre in 1974, when the diocese of Le Havre was created. The belltower dates from around 1520 and the main façade is ...
Founded: 1575 | Location: Le Havre, France

Alet Cathedral Ruins

The origins of this Benedictine abbey in Alet remain unknown: its foundation is attributed to Béra, the count of Razès, and his wife, Romille, in 813 A.D. but the documentary source of this information is not sure. The history of the abbey has been one of a succession of quarrels and conflict due to its strategic location: for example, in the 11th century the abbey was ravaged by the Count of Carcassonne, t ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Alet-les-Bains, France

Lisieux Cathedral

Lisieux Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Lisieux) is a former Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France. Built between 1170 and the middle of the 13th century through the initiative of Bishop Arnulf, the cathedral was the seat of the Bishop of Lisieux until the diocese of Lisieux was abolished under the Concordat of 1801 and merged into the Diocese of Bayeux. The west front of the building c ...
Founded: 1170 | Location: Lisieux, France

Carcassonne Cathedral

Carcassonne Cathedral was built in the 13th century as a parish church, dedicated to Saint Michael. Following war damage in the 14th century it was rebuilt as a fortified church. In 1803 St. Michael"s was elevated to cathedral status, replacing the earlier cathedral dedicated to Saints Nazarius and Celsus, now the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse. The cathedral plan is characterised by its relative simplicity. ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Carcassonne, France

Lescar Cathedral

The building of Lescar Cathedral was begun in 1120 by Bishop Guy de Lons, and was sacked by the Protestants during the reign of Jeanne III of Navarre. It was restored in the 17th and 18th centuries. The apse, housing a pavement mosaic from the 12th century with hunting scenes, is in Romanesque style. In the interior, columns have capitals depicting histories of the life of Daniel, of the birth of Christ and the S ...
Founded: 1120 | Location: Lescar, France

Mende Cathedral

Dominated by the silhouette of its two differently-sized bell towers, the Mende Cathedral was built from the 14th century onwards at the request of Urbanus V, a pope from Gévaudan, whose bronze statue has stood on the forecourt since 1874. Once inside the building, discover the crypt of St. Privatus, the black Virgin dating from the 12th century, brought back from the East by the crusaders, the carved wooden stalls, the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mende, France

Vaison-la-Romaine Cathedral

The cathedral of Vaison was built on the ruins of a Roman temple, the remains of which can be seen outside the chevet. More than one church has existed on this site; a 6th-century basilica was destroyed by Frankish invaders. The present building dates primarily from the 11th and 12th centuries. After a dispute with the Count of Toulouse in the late 12th century, the medieval city of Vaison was mostly abandoned for the ne ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Vaison-la-Romaine, France

Sées Cathedral

Sées Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Sées) dates from the 13th and 14th century and occupies the site of three earlier churches. The west front, which is disfigured by the buttresses projecting beyond it, has two stately spires of open work 230 ft. high. The nave was built towards the end of the 13th century. The choir, built soon afterwards, is remarkable for the lightness of its construction. In ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sées, France

Lodève Cathedral

Originally Lodève Cathedral was dedicated to Saint Genesius of Arles, who was a martyr of the Diocletian persecution, and was beheaded in 303 (his martyrdom is represented on the keystone of the vault of the apse). Since 1410 the cathedral has been dedicated to Saint Fulcran, who as bishop of Lodève restored the cathedral in the 10th century. Some traces of previous buildings are preserved in the crypt. The first cathe ...
Founded: c. 1265 | Location: Lodève, France

Agen Cathedral

Agen Cathedral's (Cathédrale Saint-Caprais d'Agen) visible structure dates back to the 12th century. It was built as a collegiate church of canons dedicated to Saint Caprasius, on the foundations of a basilica sacked by the Normans in 853 but thereafter restored. Sacked again in December 1561 during the Wars of Religion, by two years after the countrywide coup d'état that took place in 1789, the cathedral had come to s ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Agen, France

Pontoise Cathedral

Pontoise Cathedral, raised to the status of cathedral in 1966 when the Diocese of Pontoise was created, is dedicated to Saint Maclovius (Maclou). Construction began in the 12th century on the site of an ancient chapel of Saint Eustace and the building was enlarged and completed in the 15th and 16th centuries. Thus the central and eastern parts of the cathedral are 12th century, while the tower and the central portal are i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pontoise, France

Cambrai Cathedral

Cambrai Cathedral was built between 1696 and 1703 on the site of a former 11th century building, as the church of the Abbey of St-Sulpice. During the French Revolution the old cathedral of Cambrai was destroyed, but the abbey church survived because it was used as a Temple of Reason. When the ecclesiastical status of Cambrai was restored in 1802, albeit as a diocese rather than as an archdiocese, which it had previously b ...
Founded: 1696-1703 | Location: Cambrai, France

Laval Cathedral

Laval Cathedral (Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité de Laval) was founded around 1070, but the current exterior dates mainly from 1855 when it was promoted as a cathedral. The cathedral has been enlarged several times during centuries. There were originally dozen altarpieces, but only one survived from the French Revolution. It was built in the 17th century. The pulpit was made in 1803 and marble font in 1554.
Founded: c. 1070 | Location: Laval, France

Maguelone Cathedral

Maguelone Cathedral stands on an isthmus between the Étang de l'Arnel lake and the Mediterranean Sea in the Gulf of Lion, which was once the site of the original city of Maguelone, opposite the present-day town of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone. Maguelone Cathedral was once the episcopal seat of the former Bishop of Maguelone until 1563, when the see was transferred to the newly created Bishopric of Montpellier. The cathedr ...
Founded: 1030-1060 | Location: Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, France

Sospel Cathedral

Sospel Cathedral formerly the seat of the schismatic Bishopric of Sospel, created in 1378. Apart from a belltower of either the 11th or the 13th century, from the Lombard period of Sospel"s history, the cathedral was built between 1642 and 1762, and is claimed to be the largest building in the Alpes-Maritimes. The Renaissance façade is from 1642, and contains in two niches the statues of the town"s prote ...
Founded: 1642-1762 | Location: Sospel, France

Tarbes Cathedral

Tarbes Cathedral was established during the 12th century. There remain two apses of the choir. A first extension was made in the 14th century by the addition of a Gothic nave. Its extension extended until the 18th century with the outer span. The cathedral resembles a fortress as it was built with round pebbles from the river Adour which have also been used for the construction of many houses in Tarbes. It can accommod ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tarbes, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Abbey of Saint-Étienne

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.

Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.

As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).