Senlis Cathedral was built, for the most part, during the third quarter of the 12th century, when the royal city of Senlis was experiencing a true 'golden age'. It was profoundly renovated in the 13th and 16th centuries.
With its portal of the crowning of the Virgin (12th century), its monumental 78 meter south tower (13th century) and transept facades all masterpieces of the high and late Gothic, Notre Dame de Senlis takes its place among the most noticeable cathedrals in France.
The construction of the first cathedral is located at the end of the 4th or the beginning of the 5th century within the perimeter of the enclosure. The cathedral being the seat of a bishop's authority, the presence of a first bishop led to its construction. The word 'cathedral' comes from the Latin cathedra and the Greek kathedra, derived from hedra which means 'chair'. The ensemble formed the episcopal group: buildings (the cloister, the baptistry, the episcopal palace) grouped around the cathedral. The common buildings of the canons must have been located to the north of the present site of the cathedral, as archaeological excavations have revealed the presence of kitchens before the 12th and 13th centuries.
The construction of Notre-Dame de Senlis was started around 1153 on the site of older sanctuaries, under the impulse of Bishop Pierre (1134-1151). The main drivers of this construction were the frequent presence of the kings of France, and the very strong personality of the bishop. The financing of the construction was essentially from the work of the bishops who were financially less well off than the other bishops of the region, their sees were small in size and thus had quite the modest income of the diocese. This explains the small size of the sanctuary. The participation of the king and the canons were almost non-existent.
Construction began simultaneously at both the east and west ends of the building. In 1160, the central portal of the western façade was already done. In 1167, the cathedral already had its choir and its western façade. In 1175 the nave was connected to the choir. Around 1180, the vaulted cathedral was almost completed except for the transepts. However, it was consecrated on 16 June 1191 by the Archbishop of Reims Guillaume of the White Hands. Its construction lasted about 40 years; but it was still lacking its transepts.
The cathedral was greatly altered in the 13th century. Around 1240, the southern tower was extended by a remarkable two-storey spire, a magnificent jewel of the cathedral, and the interior perspective was interrupted by a piercing transept which left the nave shorter than the choir.
At the end of the 14th century, the chapter house was built, and around 1465 there was added the Bailli chapel, founded by Gilles de Rouvroy, known as Saint-Simon, bailiff of Senlis and ancestor of the Duke of Saint-Simon. He was buried there in 1477, as well as some of his descendants.
In 1504, a fire, caused by lightning, destroyed the framework and caused the vaults to collapse, with the exception of that of the first bay. Thanks to the donations of the kings Louis XII and Francis I, the upper parts of the cathedral were reconstructed by raising them by 6 metres, the aisles were doubled and the side facades had a very rich flamboyant decoration. The restoration began in 1506 and lasted until 1515.
In 1520, the façade of the southern transept was added. Its magnificent portal was built by Martin Chambiges and continued by his son Pierre; it dates from 1538 and the north portal is from 1560. The eastern chapels date from the same time.
In 1671 the chapel of the Sacred Heart was constructed on the ancient Gallo-Roman wall. In 1777 the choir received a neo-classical decoration which can still be seen today.
The French Revolution destroyed the furniture and destroyed the heads of statues and columns of the western portal, which were replaced in the middle of the 19th century.
In 1986, the restoration of the interior was completed, and in 1993 the restoration of the spire was completed.References:
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches of Rome. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, and much of the structure to 1140-43. The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Callixtus I and later completed by Pope Julius I.
The inscription on the episcopal throne states that this is the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, although some claim that privilege belongs to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Saint Callixtus I (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, a refuge for retired soldiers. The area was made available for Christian use by Emperor Alexander Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers.
The church underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries and in 1140-43 it was re-erected on its old foundations under Pope Innocent II.