Basilica of Saint Severinus

Bordeaux, France

The Basilica of Saint Severinus is built upon a Christian necropolis dating to the 4th century CE. The epitaph of Flavinus was engraved beneath a representation of a chrism on the lid of a sarcophagus dating to between 365 and 385 CE, testifying to the Christian presence in Bordeaux to Late Antiquity. Today, it is housed in the Museum of Aquitaine in Bordeaux.

At the beginning of the 11th century, the canons of the basilica decided to commence a major reconstruction. It has the shape of a robust Romanesque church in the basilical form. During the course of the 11th through 13th centuries the nave and the choir were built. In the 13th century, the canons ordered the construction of the southern entry which is surmounted by a porch with a belfry built in the Renaissance style. The entrance consists of a large bay flanked by two blind arches and is decorated with fourteen carved statues representing the twelve apostles and two female statues representing the Synagogue and the Church. The church has three tympana: the main one is decorated with scenes from the Resurrection and the Judgement; the left has a representation of the holy women who visited the tomb; and the right depicts the arrival of Saint Severinus according to Saint Amand's dream. The five-sided porch that leads to it was built later.

The 14th and 15th centuries mark the construction of several chapels. One of them was the Chapel of Madonna of the Rose which was dedicated to the Virgin. It contains an altar that was consecrated by Archbishop Pey Berland in 1444. It was designed in the flamboyant Gothic architecture reminiscent of that found in late-15th-century Normandy and England.

Twice in 1566 and 1698, parts of the church's vault structure collapsed causing serious damage. At the beginning of the 18th century, the architect Jean-Baptiste Augier was charged with rebuilding and bracing them with pillars equipped with stone belt courses. 

The basilica has benefited from restoration in recent decades. The roofs were redone, as were upper parts of the basilica. The chapels of Madonna of the Rose and Saint John as well as choir were restored. The church is then inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 due to it being the head of one of the Ways of Saint James of Compostela. 

Medieval furnishings

The church has retained an ornate 15th-century episcopal pulpit that still has its armrests, backrest and dais. This is a very significant item as it is reserved for the new archbishop of Bordeaux who must take an oath on the relics of Saint Severinus before he is nominated.

The choir still houses thirty-two of the forty-seven stalls from the 15th century. These stalls were intended for the chapter. They are decorated with images of saints, prophets and satirical scenes.

The Basilica of Saint Severinus has a number of well-maintained medieval statues. Among them, are the 13th-century Our Lady of Glad Tidings, the 14th-century alabaster Madonna of the Rose and one of Saint Martial.

The ancient crypt houses sepulchres of the Merovingian family.



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Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

John Sly (4 months ago)
The exterior is interesting but not stunning. However, the interior is quite the show. The very clear Romanesque styling of the ribbed vaults are well worth seeing as is the underground crypt.
Ann Whalley (5 months ago)
We were so moved by the small chapels in this church. The mausoleum was also very powerful. Incredible history.
Kathy Chang (2 years ago)
Beautiful outside! Didn’t get a chance to go in as it is closed
Vinod Rebello (2 years ago)
So much history ... a visit to the crypt is a must!
Dmk Dmk (3 years ago)
Loved it...Beautiful, You can feel the history as you enter its free and open to the public during business hours.God Bless?
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