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.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Belgium

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Peter Kidd (21 days ago)
About ⅓ of the cathedral is closed due to repair-work necessitated by a tornado in 1999. There's not much to see. The Treasury (€2.50 entry fee) is a mixed-bag, with very minimal labelling of objects.
Freek! (2 months ago)
Huge! That is your first impression arriving at this cathedral. Both roman and gothic style. An unexpected find in a relatively small town. Try to get a tour from the guide, there are many stories to tell. Also do not skip the museum / treasury. For €2,50 you wil see proof of the huge wealth the church had/ has. Silver and gold plated shrines that are the best in Belgium. They have paintings made for the church and still owned by the church, made by Jordaens and Rubens. Unfortunately the gothic part is being renovated, very slowly.
Rui Pinto (3 months ago)
Beautiful. Make a detour if needed because it's worth it. Visit the city. It's small and in 2 hours you're done.
Patrick Roupin (5 months ago)
Under renovation, like every thing in tournai!
Michael Kunze (8 months ago)
Very exiting cathedral. It's not so big but it gives a good impression how the architecture developed since the time of the romans. Beautiful building !
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monet's Garden

Claude Monet lived for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926, in Giverny. With a passion for gardening as well as for colours, he conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art. Walking through his house and gardens, visitors can still feel the atmosphere which reigned at the home of the Master of Impressionnism and marvel at the floral compositions and nymphéas, his greatest sources of inspiration.

In 1890 Monet had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its rectangular Clos normand, with archways of climbing plants entwined around colored shrubs, and the water garden, formed by a tributary to the Epte, with the Japanese bridge, the pond with the water lilies, the wisterias and the azaleas.

Today the Monet's Garden is open to the public.