The Royal Chapel of Dreux

Dreux, France

The Royal Chapel of Dreux (Chapelle royale de Dreux) is the traditional burial place of members of the House of Orléans. In the 1770s, the Duke of Penthièvre was one of the greatest land owner in France prior to the French Revolution. In 1775, the lands of the county of Dreux had been given to the Penthièvre by his cousin King Louis XVI. In 1783, the Duke sold his domain of Rambouillet to Louis XVI. On November 25 of that year, in a long religious procession, Penthièvre transferred the nine caskets containing the remains of his parents, Louis Alexandre, Count of Toulouse and Marie Victoire de Noailles, his wife, Princess Maria Teresa Felicitas of Modena, and six of their seven children, from the small medieval village church next to the castle in Rambouillet, to the chapel of the Collégiale Saint-Étienne de Dreux.

Penthièvre died in March 1793 and his body was laid to rest in the crypt beside his parents. On November 21 of that same year, in the midst of the French Revolution, a mob desecrated the crypt and threw the ten bodies in a mass grave in the Chanoines cemetery of the Collégiale Saint Étienne. In 1816, the Duke of Penthièvre's daughter, the Duchess of Orléans, had a new chapel built on the site of the mass grave of the Chanoines cemetery, as the final resting place for her family. In 1830, Louis Philippe I, King of the French, son of the Duchess of Orléans, embellished and enlarged the chapel which was renamed the Royal Chapel of Dreux, now the necropolis of the Orléans royal family.

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Limburg Cathedral

The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.

In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.