Senlis Cathedral

Senlis, France

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.



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Founded: 1153
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

lesmallcheese (9 months ago)
Beautiful church in a lovely village 20 mins from CDG airport
Yen Vu (11 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral, you must go here if you’re travel senlis ?
Emily Doner (2 years ago)
It is a beautiful cathedral and always open to the public.
Adela N. (3 years ago)
Huge gothic cathedral in the heart of a small town. There's no direct way from Paris to Senlis. It's common to take a train from Paris to Chantilly and then call Bolt or Uber to Senlis. (if you call them, they will come soon) I stopped by to see only this cathedral, and it was a pity that I had no time to look around this pretty village. The cathedral is built in a typical Gothic style and (maybe) is smaller than Paris Notre Dame or Amiens Cathedral, but it is enough to get a glimpse of the beauty of the Gothic Cathedral. There is a south side in front of the square and the entrance is there. Because of this, you can miss the facade, but if you turn to the left, you will see the beautiful tympan reliefs on the facade. The interior of the cathedral is grand and concise. The altitude is not very high, but it's majestic and godly. Keep in mind that you can enter the cathedral only before 6pm. 작은 마을의 중심부에 있는 거대한 고딕 대성당. 파리에서 상리스까지 바로 갈 수 있는 방법은 없는 걸로 알고 있다. 보통 파리에서 샹티이로 기차를 타고 간 뒤, Bolt나 Uber를 불러 상리스에 가는 방법이 일반적이다. (Bolt와 Uber는 꽤 많기때문에 호출하면 금방 온다) 나는 순전히 이 성당을 보기위해 잠깐 들렀었는데, 마을이 워낙 예뻐 더 둘러보지 못한게 아쉬움으로 남는다. 성당은 전형적인 고딕 양식으로 지어졌으며, 파리 노트르담이나 아미앵 성당보다는 규모가 작으나 고딕 대성당의 아름다움을 엿보기엔 충분하다. 성당 앞 광장에 서면 남쪽면이 보이며 입구도 그쪽에 있다. 이 때문에 facade를 놓칠 수 있는데, 왼쪽으로 돌아가면 facade의 아름다운 팀파늄 부조를 볼 수 있으니 꼭 살펴보시길 추천함. 성당 내부는 웅장하며 간결하다. 층고가 아주 높진 않지만, 충분히 장엄하고 경건한 분위기다. 아, 성당 안에 입장할 수 있는 시간이 정해져있으니 (아마도 오후 6시까지였던 듯) 염두에 두어야 한다. 장점) 고딕 대성당에 큰 관심이 있다면 한번 들를만 한 곳. 파리와는 다른 아담하고 조용한 분위기를 느낄 수 있음. 단점) 자가용이 없다면 파리에서 바로 가는 방법이 없음. 이 성당 외에 특별한 볼거리는 없는듯.
angela conifer (3 years ago)
So atmospheric and beautifully lit up in the evening. I loved the gargoyles and other decorative features of this place.
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