Ajaccio Cathedral

Ajaccio, France

The present Ajaccio cathedral was built between 1577 and 1593 and is attributed to Italian architect Giacomo della Porta. It was built to replace the former Cathedral of Saint-Croix, destroyed in 1553 in order to make room for developments in the city's defenses, as stated in the permit required by the Council of Ancients in 1559 to the Senate of Genoa and Pope Gregory XIII in order to build a new cathedral. The final stone was laid in 1593 by Jules Guistiniani, made bishop by Pope Sixtus V.

According to legend, on August 15, 1769, Letizia Buonaparte felt sudden labor pains while in the cathedral. She rushed home to the Buonaparte's home, just steps away, and gave birth to Napoleon on a first floor sofa before she could reach her bedroom upstairs.

Ajaccio Cathedral is built in the style of the Counter-Reformation with an ocher Baroque façade. The interior's Latin cross is delineated by the shallow and modestly-sized transept, which is covered by a dome. The central nave is very high and wide itself, but is short in length compared to the rest of the building. It is covered with barrel vault arches reminiscent of the Renaissance era. The building also has two aisles that depart from the front door and go up to the transept, separated in the middle by the seven chapels beside two rows of three columns.

The altar is in polychrome marbles, a gift from Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon's sister, and has an altarpiece composed of four twisted columns of black marble from Porto Venere. The Corinthian orders have a double pedestal with a collection of marble. The tabernacle dates from the time of the construction of the cathedral and originally stood at the baptismal font. It was then placed at the high altar and stands out for its unorthodox style.

Ajaccio Cathedral has seven side chapels. The cathedral also houses a large pipe organ built in 1849 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and later restored and electrified by Joël Pétrique.

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Details

Founded: 1577-1593
Category: Religious sites in France

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Carmen Lo (2 years ago)
Beautiful historical church. Stay inside you will feel calm and peace.
Frank Rushworth (2 years ago)
Lovely building inside and outside too, so special inside if that's your Religion or your interest.
Stefan Kasprzyk (2 years ago)
Interesting church. Does not have the "wow" factor of its cousins on the mainland but a few interesting curios. And, of course ( pardon the pun), Napoleon I was here...christened, I think.
Aeronwy (2 years ago)
Very interesting little cathedral. Unassuming on the outside. Inside there is some beautifully intricate stucco decor, but a fair bit of it is chalked on - I wonder why? Budget cuts? Plenty of candles to light inside if you have recently lost a loved one/ are worried about your bowel movements following that dodgy sandwich you are next door. There is also a brilliant organ behind you as you walk in, so don't forget to look up and all around you.
Jeffrey Parrish (2 years ago)
The cathedral was closed when we were there, so that was disappointing. We also were surprised that the cathedral only takes up half of the block - it is rather small for a main draw. The front park and facade are nice, but that is all I experienced. It is hard to think of this smallish church as a main attraction in a city. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt with a 4 star rating.
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Quimper Cathedral

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.