Originally Lodève Cathedral was dedicated to Saint Genesius of Arles, who was a martyr of the Diocletian persecution, and was beheaded in 303 (his martyrdom is represented on the keystone of the vault of the apse). Since 1410 the cathedral has been dedicated to Saint Fulcran, who as bishop of Lodève restored the cathedral in the 10th century.
Some traces of previous buildings are preserved in the crypt. The first cathedral from the time of the foundation of the diocese towards the end of the 4th century remains unknown. Some capitals of the 6th to the 8th centuries, now in the Musée Fleury, imply building from the time of the rule of the Visigoths. The exterior walls of the crypt also seem to date from that period. In the 10th century Saint Fulcran had the cathedral either rebuilt or extended, and reconsecrated it in 975. The doubling of the crypt walls towards the exterior and its vault were part of this structure.
The cathedral is a typical Gothic building of the south of France, majestic and austere, reflecting the stylistic influence of the Mendicant orders. A choir consisting of a single, extremely broad, nave, and a polygonal apse of nine bays lit by nine Gothic windows 12 metres high, is extended to the west by a nave of three aisles. The main portal, richly ornamented, is located in the middle of the north side, under a porch.
The Gothic structure was begun with the apse in about 1265/1270. During the later 1270s and the early 1280s, the two eastern bays of the northern side of the nave were built, as well as the adjacent chapel of Saint Fulcran, the portal and its porch. The choir was vaulted, and temporarily closed off so that it could be used for services.
In a next phase of about 1295/1300 the north side was completed, with the chapel of Saint Martin (now the chapel of Saint Roch), and work on the south side was begun with the Lady Chapel and the chapel of Saint Michael, above which was built a belltower over 57 metres high, which also served as a watch-tower. This was finished in about 1320.
During the rule of bishop Bernard Gui (1324-1331), formerly Grand Inquisitor, construction halted because of financial difficulties. The north and south sides were not completed and vaulted until about 1345, when the lower half of the western front was also erected. Several epidemics of the Black Death followed by the Hundred Years' War interrupted further work, and the façade was not finished until sometime between 1413 and 1430, and fortified with a chemin de ronde and bartizans. The principal nave was vaulted at the same time. Towards the end of the 15th century the chapel of Saint Fulcran was enlarged and a baptistry added to the south-west.
During the French Wars of Religion the cathedral was looted and severely damaged. Protestant troops blew up the four great pillars of the nave, causing the collapse of the arcades, the clerestory and the vaulting of the nave roof. The only parts that remained intact were the choir, the outside walls of the nave and the side-chapels. It was Bishop Jean VI de Plantavit de la Pause (1625-1648) who had the destroyed parts of the building restored as they had been.
In the French Revolution the cathedral was desecrated and used as a storage depot. In the 19th and 20th centuries a number of restorations were carried out, including the reinforcement of the buttresses, the replacement of the original plaster and the reopening of blocked windows. Finally a stone roof was added to the belltower.
The belltower is decorated with four large statues in high relief, representing the saints venerated in the diocese: Saint Michael the Archangel; Saint Genesius of Arles, the first patron of the cathedral; either Saint Florus, the legendary first bishop of Lodève and the apostle of the Auvergne, or Saint Amand, bishop of Rodez; and Saint Fulcran, bishop of Lodève in the 10th century and the present patron of the cathedral. The cathedral building is also ornamented with quantities of sculpted brackets, capitals and gargoyles. The tympanum over the portal is Gothic revival.
Because of the devastations of war, none of the original fittings and furnishings have survived. In the chapel of Saint Michael is the monument of Bishop Plantavit de la Pause (about 1650). The walls of the choir are decorated by eight enormous wall-hangings of the 17th and 18th centuries, by Sébastien Bourdon, J. Coustou and Étienne Loys. The stained glass windows of the apse date from 1854 and are by the artist Mauvernay. The wooden pulpit supported by four atlantes (Cain, Holophernes, Herod and Judas) dates from 1867, when it was displayed at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. The polychrome organ loft is a masterpiece of Rococo work, one of the most impressive in the south of France. It stands on a vast platform of stone with a beautiful balustrade of wrought iron, and was built in 1754 by Jean-François L'Epine. The original instrument was rebuilt in 1882 by Théodore Puget of Toulouse.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.