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:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.