The Collegiate Church of St. Bartholomew was built in coal sandstone, starting in the late 11th century (the chancel) and lasting until the late 12th century (the massive westwork, with its twin towers which were reconstructed in 1876). It underwent, like most ancient religious buildings, modifications through the centuries. Nevertheless, the Meuse Romanesque—Ottonian architecture character of its architecture remained deeply rooted. The 18th century saw the addition of two more aisles, the opening of a neoclassical portal in the walls of the westwork, and the French Baroque redecoration of the interior. The interior of the western section has recently been restored back to the original style.
The church contains numerous works of art, among which may be mentioned The Glorification of the Holy Cross, a tableau of the local painter Bertholet Flemalle (1614-1675); The Crucifixion, from another local artist, Englebert Fisen (1655-1733); and a statue of St. Roch by Renier Panhay de Rendeux.
St. Bartholomew is the site of one of the most known examples of ecclesiastical Mosan art, a baptismal font attributed to the goldsmith Renier de Huy. It was commissioned at the beginning of the 12th century (1107-1108) by the Abbot Hellin for the Church of Notre-Dame-aux-Fonts, now destroyed, where local baptisms traditionally were administered.
The font was installed in St. Bartholomew Church in 1804, after having been spared from the occupying forces of the French Revolutionary Army.
This work heralds a resurgence of Greek influences on Western art. The brass tank, resting on ten (originally twelve) ox figures, presents five scenes: the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the preaching of St. John the Baptist, the baptism of the catechumens, the baptism of the Centurion Cornelius, and the baptism of the philosopher Craton.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).