Vézelay Abbey Church and Hill (World Heritage)

The 12th century basilica Sainte-Madeleine of Vézelay, located on a hill, can be seen from afar. The church construction is considered an outstanding testimony to the Romanesque. Hardly anything has been preserved from the monastery complex itself. Vézelay has been a place of pilgrimage since the 11th century and became one of the most famous Christian pilgrimage sites alongside Santiago de Compostela in the Middle Ages. Mary Magdalene has been venerated here since the 11th century.

Vézelay abbey church and hill: facts

Official title: Vézelay abbey church and hill
Cultural monument: the abbey church of Sainte-Madeleine with the relics of St. Mary Magdalene; located between the 12th and 14th centuries on one of the four pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela; 62 m long Romanesque nave and 23 m wide vestibule, valuable creations of Romanesque and early Gothic sculptures, including figure capitals such as “Building of Noah’s Ark” and “Christ in Glory” in the arch of the main portal
Continent: Europe
Country: France, Burgundy
Location: Vezelay
Vezelay 1979
Meaning: a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque and early Gothic

Vézelay abbey church and hill: history

9th century Foundation of a Benedictine monastery
Early 12th century Construction of the choir and transept over the crypt of a Carolingian predecessor church
1135 Romanesque nave completed
1146 Call of St. Bernhard on the 2nd crusade
around 1150 Construction of the three-aisled vestibule
1190 Starting point of the 3rd crusade under Richard I the Lionheart, King of England, and Philip II August, King of France
1215 After a fire, the choir and the transept were rebuilt in the early Gothic style
1840-61 extensive restoration
1920 raised to the rank of basilica

Romanesque sculpture on the sacred mountain of Burgundy

The Gothic church of Saint-Père-sous-Vézelay stands in the valley of the Cure at the foot of the “spirit-filled hill”, on which France’s largest monastery church sits enthroned over the Burgundian landscape. This is where the “Romanesque miracle” of Vézelay began after godly knights from Provence, threatened by the Saracens, had brought the relics of St. Magdalena there to safety. The mortal remains of the repentant “great sinner and lover” soon became the target of pious pilgrims from near and far, who hoped that the worship of the relic would heal their ailments. Marauding Norman buccaneers who were marching through Central Europe at that time set fire to the pilgrimage church;

On this hill the Benedictines founded a monastery under the direction of the abbot Odo von Cluny, whose pilgrim church Sainte-Madeleine now received the bones of the saints and thus developed into an important spiritual center. Because stone rubble from the Celtic complex was also used in the construction of the church, New Age disciples believe that they will experience a special and intense inspiration here thanks to the mystical charge by means of “earth rays and pagan primal forces”. Anyone who climbs up to the basilica between the old town houses of the steep Grande-Rue follows in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who have visited Vézelay on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela since the 11th century.

According to businesscarriers, Sainte-Madeleine, a three-aisled basilica with ten bays and one of the most stylish Romanesque monastery churches in France, was built in its essential components and decorative details after the devastating fire of 1120. Along with the cathedral of Autun, Sainte-Madeleine is the Romanesque sacred building richest in masterful sculptures entire region. The grandiose capitals and especially the portal of the vestibule, created around 1125 with the depiction of the Pentecost miracle and the sending of the apostles, are famous. The figurative capitals and the almost dynamic sculpture of the portal built between the vestibule and central nave introduce the climax of the French sacred sculpture of the high Romanesque era in the expressivity of their elongated body, which is as sensitive as it is tense, together with the fine folds of the garments. The historically most significant day for Vézelay was Easter Sunday 1146. Knights, noble territorial lords and clerical dignitaries had flocked from all over France for days. Not all of them found a place in the pilgrim church, which was only completed a few years ago; most of them huddled in front of the portal. And suddenly the crowd became silent when the voice of a preacher sounded through the church far outside, who, on behalf of the Pope, addressed fiery words to the faithful. Those who were lucky enough to get into the church could see King Louis VII and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine next to the altar. Both nodded approvingly to the eloquent, gaunt man in the monk’s robe: it was none other than the famous Bernard of Clairvaux who spoke with ardor of the wrath of all of Christianity, who so far had to endure that godless Muslims found the holy places of the Gospel as you Looking at property. Jerusalem in the hands of the devil? Stop it! It is the highest Christian duty to end the profanation.

Since that Easter, the three subsequent Christian war expeditions to Jerusalem began after a service in Vézelay. With the end of the Crusades and the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, the importance of this large Romanesque pilgrimage church, which today is one of the most visited places of worship in France thanks to its works of art, gradually waned.

Vézelay Abbey Church and Hill