Tournai Cathedral

Tournai, Belgium

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Tournai has been classified both as a Wallonia"s major heritage since 1936 and as a World Heritage Site since 2000.

There was a diocese centered at Tournai from the late 6th century and this structure of local blue-gray stone occupies rising ground near the south bank of the Scheldt, which divides the city of Tournai into two roughly equal parts. Begun in the 12th century on even older foundations, the building combines the work of three design periods with striking effect, the heavy and severe character of the Romanesque nave contrasting remarkably with the Transitional work of the transept and the fully developed Gothic of the choir. The transept is the most distinctive part of the building, with its cluster of five bell towers and apsidal (semicircular) ends.

The nave belongs mostly to the first third of the 12th century. Prefiguring the Early Gothic style, it has a second-tier gallery between the ground-floor arcade and the triforium. Pilasters between the round-arched windows in the clerestory help support the 18th-century vaulting that replaced the original ceiling, which was of wood, and flat.

The transept arms, built in about the mid-12th century, have apsidal ends, a feature borrowed in all probability from certain Rhenish churches, and which would appear to have made its influence felt in the northeast of France, as at Noyon and Soissons. The square towers that flank the transept arms reach a height of 83 metres. They vary in detail, some of the arcade work with which they are enriched being in the round-arched and some in the pointed style.

Bishop Gautier de Marvis (1219-1252) had the original Romanesque choir demolished in the 13th century, in order to replace it with a Gothic choir of much grander dimensions, inspired by the likes of Amiens Cathedral. The construction of the new choir began in 1242, and ended in 1255. The rest of the cathedral was supposed to be rebuilt in the same style as the choir, but this was never attempted, the only later additions being the western porch, and a large Gothic chapel which was built alongside one of the side aisles, whose original walls and windows disappeared in the process.

The rood screen is a renaissance masterpiece by Flemish sculptor Cornelis Floris and dates from 1573.

The Cathedral was damaged by a severe tornado on the 24 August 1999. Assessment of the damage revealed underlying structural problems and the Cathedral has been undergoing extensive repairs and archaeological investigation ever since. The Brunin Tower was stabilised in 2003.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Elias Kountanis (5 months ago)
Simply awesome, no words can describe it!!!
person unbiased (5 months ago)
It's a nice one. But they have a Sunday missa in the morning. Don't go at that time if you wanna go visit inside just visiting
Bart Eekhaut (8 months ago)
The roman part has been renovated both in and outside, but we'll have to wait probably a few years to have the same splendid view on the gothic part
jean vr (8 months ago)
Beautiful cathedral in the midst of reparations. the treasure is beautiful although no photos can be taken. The restoration premises some amazing results and the parts are ready to be seen are breathtaking. Free entry makes it a place not to be missed in the centre of Tournai.
Bob Buddha (9 months ago)
First time in my life I've seen the cathedral and it's disappointing. This is a beautiful gothic cathedral with a Romanesque southern entrance and it's vast, bigger than Gloucester cathedral, but it is in a state of decay, more than half of the building walled off for restoration work. The city itself is a reflection of this. Tournai used to be rich and beautiful, with cobbled streets and a truly ancient character. Now there's drunks pissing in the street during the middle of the day, with shops closed for the foreseeable future.
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