Vitudurum is the name of a Roman Vicus, those remains are located in Oberwinterthur, a locality of the municipality of Winterthur. The majority of the remains of commercial, residential, religious and public buildings are situated around the St. Arbogast church.
Vitudurum was established nearby productive resources and a prehistorican route from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance in the late first century BC or early first century AD. The Roman timber buildings were dendrochronologically dated around 4 BC. In 7 AD the Romans rebuilt the passageway in the Oberwinterthur area into a road. Starting from the village's center on the church hill (St. Arbogast) at the beginning of the 1st century AD, a street village stretched at a length of about 500 metres having several districts. The open settlement had its flowering time in the 1st and 2nd centuries. During the Alamanii invasion, the vicus was replaced respectively fortified by a castrum (fort) on the present St. Arbogast church hill, surrounded by a wall. The date of the construction of the fortification around 294 AD is documented by its inscription stone. At the same place the predecessor building of the St. Arbogast church was erected in the 6th/7th century.
A masonry temple in the center was built in the 1st to 2nd century, surrounded by a sacred precinct, the spa, three houses and a building of public character, and on the opposite side other larger stone buildings. To the south east, a residential and commercial district were situated at Unterer Bühl, which consisted entirely of wooden houses or clay-half-timbered structures. There were found organic materials in a very good condition: besides basket fragments, scrap leather and wooden objects, also a threshold beam and other parts of the house structures. About a wooden spring capture and wooden fresh water pipes were conducted in different houses. Elaborately constructed and parcarefully covered wooden channels were used for sanitation. Comparable with the southwesternly area, two rows of houses stretched towards the north-east.
North of the church hill there were on 2,000 square metres more residential and farm buildings made of wood, but also one of stone, fresh water pipes and sewers and latrines, established in the 1st to the 3rd century AD. Fire hazard exposed buildings and imissionary trades were situated at the edges of settlement in the west and east: in the 1st and 2nd centuries at least 14 kilns and tanneries in the southwest and northeast. Individual staves of six vats, embedded in the floor of the tannery date back in the 1st century,and show bear stamp and graffiti. The numerous single finds, mostly from the 1st century, include wooden writing tablets with inscriptions, pottery fragments and a pair of shoe bars.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.