Cathedrals in France

Cervione Cathedral

Saint Erasmus cathedral in Cervione, which was completed in 1745, and is an fine example of the Baroque style. It was built on the site of previous cathedral, dating from 1578. 
Founded: 1714-1745 | Location: Cervione, France

Éauze Cathedral

Eauze former cathedral is a national monument. It was the ecclesiastical seat of the former Diocese of Eauze, which was merged into the Bishopric of Auch, probably in the 9th century. Eauze Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Luperculus, who is said to have been a bishop here in the 3rd century before being martyred. Odon, Count of Fezensac, founded a Benedictine monastery on this site After 960 AD. In 1088, the m ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Eauze, France

Alès Cathedral

Alès was formerly a centre of the Huguenots and was taken only after a long siege by Louis XIII in 1627. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Alès was established here in 1694, at which time the construction of the cathedral began, but was not restored after the French Revolution: by the Concordat of 1801 its parishes were divided between the dioceses of Avignon and Mende. Alès and its cathedral lie near th ...
Founded: 1694 | Location: Alès, France

Saint-Pons-de-Thomières Cathedral

Saint-Pons-de-Thomières Cathedral was formerly the seat of the Bishopric of Saint-Pons, founded like a number of bishoprics in the region in the aftermath of the suppression of the Albigensians. By a Papal bull dated 18 February 1318, Pope John XXII created the see by elevating the abbey of Saint-Pons, which had been here since its foundation in 936 by Raymond, Count of Toulouse. The bishopric was abolished by the Concor ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Saint-Pons-de-Thomières, France

Rieux Cathedral

Rieux Cathedral was the seat of the Ancien Régime diocese of Rieux, created in 1317 and dissolved in 1790. The cathedral was built on the site of 13th century church and contains defensive elements from the old fortified church. Its 43 meters high octagonal tower is built in Toulouse style.
Founded: 1317 | Location: Rieux-Volvestre, France

Montauban Cathedral

Montauban Cathedral is the seat of the Bishopric of Montauban, created in 1317, abolished by the Concordat of 1801 and transferred to the Archdiocese of Toulouse, and restored in 1822. The cathedral was Protestant from the start of the Wars of Religion until Catholicism returned to Montauban in 1629. The construction of a new church, the present building, was agreed after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. T ...
Founded: 1692 | Location: Montauban, France

Aleth Cathedral Ruins

Aleth was a Gallo-Roman settlement on a peninsula on one side of the Rance estuary. The bishopric was established in the 9th century. Aleth Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre d"Aleth) was destroyed by Norman invaders in the 10th century but later rebuilt. The site of Aleth however was not a secure one and the town of Saint-Malo had begun to grow up on a far more defensible site on a rocky islet in the estuary ...
Founded: 920 AD | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Lombez Cathedral

Lombez Cathedral is a brick church with an ornate pink-and-white five-tiered octagonal bell tower constructed c. 1346. A plaque to the right of the plain west entrance records the visit of the Italian poet Petrarch in 1330, arranged by the bishop, Jacques Colonna (1328–41), also of Italian extraction, who made Petrarch an honorary canon in 1335. The typical blank west façade of meridional Gothic is relieved only by ...
Founded: c. 1346 | Location: Lombez, France

Pamiers Cathedral

Pamiers Cathedral is dedicated to Antoninus of Pamiers. The oldest part is the entrance dating from the 12th century with some carved capital stones depicting biblical characters. The remainder of the cathedral is more recent having been reconstructed and modified over the centuries - for example, the outer part of the entrance (the stone arches) and the belltower were added in the 14th century, the main body of the cathe ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pamiers, France

Choisy Cathedral

Choisy Cathedral, otherwise known as the Church of St. Louis and St. Nicholas, was the first cathedral of the diocese of Créteil, from 1966, when the diocese was created, to 1987, when the present Créteil Cathedral was inaugurated. The church was built by the architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel under commission from Louis XV to provide a suitable place of worship for the court when the king was staying at his ne ...
Founded: 1748-1760 | Location: Choisy-le-Roi, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

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 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.