Dax Cathedral has been the the bishop's seat officially since 1833 when it was transferred from Aire Cathedral. In the late 13th century, when the town of Dax was at the height of its prosperity, the bishops had a number of ecclesiastical buildings constructed, among which was a new cathedral on the site of an ancient Romanesque sanctuary which had become too cramped. This Gothic structure collapsed in 1646; all that remains of it is the magnificent Portal of the Apostles in the north transept: 12 metres high and 8 metres wide, this doorway contains a quantity of beautiful sculptures, fairly rare in the south of France, despite some mutilations and damage incurred during the passage of time.
Apart from the portal, which was classed as a national monument of France in its own right in 1884, the present cathedral was built from 1694 onwards in a plain style of classical inspiration. The main façade and south elevation have a massive, almost austere, appearance. The north elevation however, which looks onto a small square in the historical centre of the town, does not lack charm, despite a certain rigidity.
The dome over the crossing is decorated with murals. The quire houses the old stalls (16th century) of the canons, saved from the former cathedral. The mid-18th century high altar and the altar of the Virgin Mary are of polychromatic marble and are the work of the Mazzetti brothers, originally from Switzerland but resident in Avignon. The organ loft, of the late 17th century, was the work of Caular, a local ebonist. After its recent restoration this organ loft is considered one of the most beautiful in France.
The building also contains a number of paintings, among them 'Jesus and His Disciples' by Gerrit van Honthorst (17th century), and the 'Adoration of the Shepherds' by Hans von Aachen (late 16th century).References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.