Like the cathedrals of Chartres and Reimes, the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Amiens, which was rebuilt after a fire from 1220, is one of the most important church buildings of French High Gothic. According to cheeroutdoor, the house of God is the largest Gothic church in France in terms of area and impresses with its figurative decorations comprising around 3,600 sculptures. The three portals are considered the highlight of medieval sculpture.
Amiens Cathedral: Facts
|Official title:||Amiens Cathedral|
|Cultural monument:||145 m long Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens, place of pilgrimage at the crossroads of the »pilgrimage routes« to Compostela, Aachen and Rome; Crossing tower 112 m high, roof ridge 56 m high, total area approx. 7700 m²|
|Location:||Amiens, north of Paris|
|Meaning:||the largest Gothic church in France with very rich sculptural decorations and impressive spatial conditions|
Amiens Cathedral: history
|1137||first church building|
|1206||Head of John the Baptist transferred to Amiens as a relic|
|1529-33||Construction of the current lead-sealed crossing tower|
|1751-68||wrought iron choir grille|
|1./2.||World War only minor damage|
|1981||Designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site|
|1994-2000||complex renovation of the facade using laser technology|
In the stone hall of light
Seemingly unchanged for centuries, Amiens, the old capital of Picardy on the banks of the Somme, is dominated by its majestic cathedral. This awesome colossus rises suddenly from a gray-red sea of houses, in whose shadow Jules Verne, who wrote the utopian »Journey to the Center of the Earth« (1864), went to school.
In the beginning, however, there was a catastrophe: The old Romanesque cathedral of Amiens had fallen victim to the flames, but the archbishop Evrard de Fouilloy saw the accident as an opportunity to go down in history with a mighty new church in the Gothic style. With the choice of his master builder, the archbishop demonstrated a great deal of expertise, because Robert de Luzarches should understand like no other how to set a breathtaking monument to the Gothic spirit. Due to the unlikely short construction time of almost 50 years at the time, the most harmonious of all French cathedrals was built in Amiens, which the English art historian John Ruskin praised in the 19th century as the »Parthenon of the Gothic«. The short construction time is all the more to be appreciated, considering that whole forests had to be felled just for the scaffolding and that apart from wooden winches and cranes there were no construction machines. In view of this, it is astonishing that the largest French church of all could be built with an area of around 7,700 square meters.
The west facade of the cathedral is particularly impressive; it is dominated by three giant portals, between which the four buttresses of richly structured »pointed turrets«, so-called pinnacles, adorned with finials, rise up. A second gallery is built over a first gallery with large window openings, the pointed arches of which are occupied by numerous royal figures. The crowning glory is the rose window and two mighty, almost abruptly cut-off towers that rise to the side. In view of the breathtaking elegance of the west facade, it is difficult to remember that the many-leaved, late Gothic flame rose with its openwork arches, latticed openings and gable ledges studded with buds is all made of stone.
Inside, the harmonious proportions of the three-story nave unintentionally capture the viewer. With visible grace, the pillars strive towards the sky, only to fan out as leaf ribs to conclude the vault. Light, walking in the footsteps of a God incarnate, insight and logic: these are the characteristics of Gothic aesthetics that culminated in Amiens. It is therefore not surprising that this Gothic masterpiece became the model for numerous buildings, including Cologne Cathedral. The French historian Georges Duby, who died a few years ago and a knowledgeable connoisseur of medieval cultural history, probably had Amiens in mind when he wrote: “The light that appears at the same time as God himself and as the link between the unity of the soul and God.
The nave is framed by arcades and the wall zone in front of the pent roof of the side aisle, the so-called triforium, which together with the window storey form a roaring triad. The triforium in the choir was glazed and continued as the so-called “claire-voie” – an architectural device that gives the vault of the nave a floating lightness. The floor plan of the choir with its wreath of seven chapels can be called classic. Particularly noteworthy is the late Gothic choir stalls decorated with thousands of figures, at one end of which a craftsman has immortalized himself at work with a hammer and chisel.