Agde Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Stephen and stands on the bank of the Hérault River. The present building was constructed in the 12th century, beginning in 1173 under the direction of bishop William II of Agde, and replaced a Carolingian church of the 9th century that stood on the foundations of a 5th-century Roman church, formerly a temple of Diana.
The cathedral is remarkable for being built of black basalt from the nearby volcanic Mont St. Loup quarries. The building is extremely strong and was designed to serve as a fortress as much as a church: the walls are between 2 and 3 metres thick, and the square tower, 35 metres high, could also function as a keep, or donjon. The crenellations and machicolations are very prominent, and again, more characteristic of a fortress than of a church.
The Romanesque cloister which once adjoined the cathedral was demolished in 1857. Many of the materials, such as the capitals and the columns, were shortly afterwards reused for the construction of the lady chapel, which is now used as the entrance.
In the severe interior the 17th century high altar of polychromatic marble stands out all the more, as do the organs in Baroque style.
Of the cathedral's five bells, four are hung in the belltower, and were cast by Burdin-Aîné of Lyon in 1894 and 1895. The fifth is on top of the bellower and is used only for the chiming of the clock, cast in 1665 by Daniac Fulcrand at Béziers, and declared a monument historique in 1959.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.