Amiens Cathedral, also called Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame d’Amiens, is a Roman Catholic church. It is on a small hill with a view of the River Somme in Amiens, which is the administrative capital of the French region of Picardy and about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Paris. Almost all of the cathedral was built between 1220 and about 1270, which is a very short time for a Gothic church. This gives it an unusually consistent style.
Amiens Cathedral, includes:
Amiens Cathedral France
The cathedral is a great example of the High Gothic style of Gothic building. It is where the Bishop of Amiens lives. It also has some traits of the later Rayonnant style, like the larger, high windows added to the choir in the mid-1250s. Since 1981, it has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Even though it has lost a lot of its original stained glass, Amiens Cathedral is known for the quality and amount of early 13th-century Gothic sculpture on the main west facade and the south transept portal, as well as the large number of polychrome sculptures from later times inside the building. Local legend says that two Christian heroes named Firmin the Martyr and Firmin the Confessor brought Christianity to Amiens in the third century A.D.
Amiens Cathedral History
In the year 334, Saint Martin was baptized in Amiens. The Vandals destroyed the church, and it didn’t start up again until the baptism of Clovis I in 498 or 499, at the end of the 5th century. Edibus was the first bishop of Amiens. He took part in a meeting in the year 511. Documents say that where the current church is, there used to be an early cathedral with two churches dedicated to the two Fermins, but there is no archaeological proof to support this.
Salvius, who was bishop of Amiens around the year 600, is said to have built this church, but very little is known about his life. A fire burned down the two buildings and a lot of the town. Between 1137 and 1152, a Romanesque cathedral was built to replace them. In 1193, the wedding of King Philip II of France took place in this church.
Amiens Cathedral Architecture
In 1206, the head of John the Baptist, which was thought to be a famous treasure, was bought in Constantinople and sent to Amiens. This relic made Amiens a big place for pilgrims to go, which brought in a lot of money. During the French Revolution, the reliquary was broken. However, in 1876, a jeweler in Paris used some of the original rock crystal to make a copy, which is now on display in the cathedral’s treasury.
Construction: In 1218, a fire burned down the Romanesque church. Master builder Robert de Luzarches made a plan for a new church, and in 1220, Bishop Evrard de Fouilloy laid the first stone. The nave was finished in 1236, and the choir’s upper windows were in place by 1269. The transept’s arms were finished at the end of the 13th century, and the facades and top towers were finished at the start of the 14th century. During this time, chapels were added between the buttresses and at the corners of the transept.
Exterior: The west facade of the church was built as a single project from 1220 to 1236, which is unusual in terms of how well the art fits together. About 1240, the level of the rose window was done. After that, work on the building slowed down. The towers’ upper parts were not finished until the 1400s. The front has three deep porches with pointed arches that cover the three doorways. Above the entrances are two galleries.
The Gallery of Kings has twenty-two statues of French kings that are the same size as the real kings. The portal in the middle is for the Last Judgement; the portal on the left is for the victim Saint Firmin; and the portal on the right is for the Virgin Mary. Each doorway has a tympanum filled with sculptures that sits over it. The figure of Christ with his hands raised, judging those below him, is the most important part of the tympanum of the Last Judgement. On his right and left, the Virgin Mary and Saint John ask him to be kind.
Amiens Cathedral Interior
Ringing Bells: The shorter south bell tower on the right side of the wall was finished first, around 1366. The north tower was finished in 1406, and it is painted in the Flamboyant style of late Gothic. At this time, the complex Bell-Ringers Gallery, or Musicians Gallery, which connects the two towers at the roof level, was added. Viollet-le-Duc did a lot of work to fix or rebuild it in the 19th century.
Amiens Cathedral Stained Glass
Windows with stained glass: A few of the original stained glass windows are still there. Many of them were taken out when the church was redone in the 18th century. Some were lost when the Protestant Huguenots burned down the church in 1561, when storms hit in 1627 and 1705, and when a powder mill exploded in 1675.
A large number of old windows that had been taken out in 1914 to keep them from getting damaged during the First World War were destroyed in 1920 when the building where they had been kept caught on fire. In the windows of the triforium, the middle level of the wall, and the apse, you can see some very old pieces of stained glass from around 1300. They show a huge parade of saints, leaders, prophets, and bishops set against a light-colored glass background to make them stand out. They face the middle of the apse, where there is a window with the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation.
Amiens Flying Buttresses
The buttresses of the nave are older, going back to about 1230, and each pier has two arches, one on top of the other. Both make a single jump to the wall of the nave. One arch meets the wall just above the point where the vault of the nave pushes out the most, and the other arch meets the wall just below that point. The choir’s buttresses are a little bit more recent. They were finished around 1260, and they have a different look.
Beau Pilier: The Beau Pilier, or beautiful pillar, is an unusual part of the towers. It is a buttress that was added in the 14th century between the north tower and the first of two new churches that were built on the north side. Nine statues of the most important political, religious, and military people in France at the time are on the column. Cardinal de la Grange, the Chamberlain, Bureau de la Riviere, and Admiral Jean de Vienne are at the bottom.
Above them are King Charles (in the middle), his son the Dauphin, who will become King Charles VI of France, and his younger son. The flèche is: Lightning struck and destroyed the cathedral’s original flèche, or spire, which stood where the transept and nave met in the 13th century. In 1533, a flèche made of wood covered with golden lead plates took its place.