Amiens Cathedral
Overview
 
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens , or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 and seat of the Bishop of Amiens (currently Jean-Luc Bouilleret). It is situated on a slight ridge overlooking the River Somme in the administrative capital of the Picardy
Picardy
This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

 region of France, some 120 km north of Paris.

The cathedral is the tallest complete cathedral in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, its stone-vaulted nave reaching a height of 42.3 metres (138.8 ft) (surpassed only by the incomplete Beauvais Cathedral).
Encyclopedia
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens , or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 and seat of the Bishop of Amiens (currently Jean-Luc Bouilleret). It is situated on a slight ridge overlooking the River Somme in the administrative capital of the Picardy
Picardy
This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

 region of France, some 120 km north of Paris.

The cathedral is the tallest complete cathedral in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, its stone-vaulted nave reaching a height of 42.3 metres (138.8 ft) (surpassed only by the incomplete Beauvais Cathedral). It also has the greatest interior volume of any French cathedral, estimated at 200000 cubic metres (261,590.1 cu yd). The cathedral was built between 1220 and c.1270 and has been listed as a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 since 1981. Although it has lost most of its original stained glass, Amiens Cathedral is renowned for the quality and quantity of early 13th century Gothic sculpture in the main west facade and the south transept
Transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

 portal, and a large quantity of polychrome sculpture from later periods inside the building.

Construction

The lack of documentation concerning the construction of the Gothic cathedral
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 may be in part the result of fires that destroyed the chapter archives in 1218 and again in 1258—a fire that damaged the cathedral itself. Bishop Evrard de Fouilly initiated work on the cathedral in 1220. Robert de Luzarches
Robert of Luzarches
Robert of Luzarches was a French architect who worked on the cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens....

 was the architect until 1228, and was followed by Thomas de Cormont until 1258. His son, Renaud de Cormont, acted as the architect until 1288. The chronicle of Corbie
Corbie
Corbie is a commune of the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:The small town is situated up river from Amiens, in the département of Somme and is the main town of the canton of Corbie. It lies in the valley of the River Somme, at the confluence of the River Ancre. The town...

 gives a completion date for the cathedral of 1266. Finishing works continued, however. Its floors are covered with a number of designs, such as the swastika
Swastika
The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing form in counter clock motion or its mirrored left-facing form in clock motion. Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient...

 (to symbolize Jesus' triumph over death). The labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

 was installed in 1288. The cathedral contains the alleged head of John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

, a relic brought from Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by Wallon de Sarton as he was returning from the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

.

The construction of the cathedral at this period can be seen as resulting from a coming together of necessity and opportunity. The destruction of earlier buildings and attempts at rebuilding by fire forced the fairly rapid construction of a building that, consequently, has a good deal of artistic unity. The long and relatively peaceful reign of Louis IX of France
Louis IX of France
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...

 brought a prosperity to the region, based on thriving agriculture and a booming cloth trade, that made the investment possible. The great cathedrals of Reims and Chartres
Cathedral of Chartres
The French medieval Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a Latin Rite Catholic cathedral located in Chartres, about southwest of Paris, is considered one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style...

 are roughly contemporary.

Structural defects

The original design of the flying buttresses around the choir had them placed too high to counteract the force of the ceiling arch pushing outwards resulting in excessive lateral forces being placed on the vertical columns. The structure was only saved when, centuries later, masons placed a second row of more robust flying buttresses that connected lower down on the outer wall. This fix failed to counteract similar issues with the lower wall which began to develop large cracks around the late Middle Ages. This was solved by another patch that consisted of a wrought iron
Wrought iron
thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

 bar chain being installed around the mezzanine level to resist the forces pushing the stone columns outward. The chain was installed red hot to act as a cinch, tightening as it cooled.

The exterior

The west front of the cathedral, (illustration, right) built in a single campaign, 1220–36, shows an unusual degree of artistic unity: its lower tier with three vast deep porches is capped with the gallery of twenty-two over lifesize kings, which stretches across the entire façade beneath the rose window
Rose window
A Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window, but is especially used for those found in churches of the Gothic architectural style and being divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery...

. Above the rose window there is an open arcade, the galerie des sonneurs. Flanking the nave, the two towers were built without close regard to the former design, the south tower being finished in 1366, the north one, reaching higher, in 1406.

The Western portals of the cathedral are justly famous for their elaborate sculpture, featuring a gallery of locally-important saints and large eschatological
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 scenes. Statues of saints in the portal of the cathedral have been identified as including the locally venerated Saints Victoricus and Gentian
Victoricus, Fuscian, and Gentian
Victoricus , Fuscian and Gentian are venerated as martyrs by the Catholic Church...

, Saint Domitius
Saint Domitius
He is remembered for providing spiritual guidance to Saint Ulphia. Domitius is said to have been a deacon of the church of Amiens who lived on the banks of the Avre River.One of the statues in the portal of Amiens Cathedral has been identified as Domitius....

, Saint Ulphia, and Saint Fermin
Saint Fermin
Saint Fermin of Amiens is one of many locally venerated Catholic saints. Fermin is the co-patron of Navarra, where his feast, the 'San Fermín' in the capital Pamplona, is forever associated with the Encierro or 'Running of the Bulls' made famous by Ernest Hemingway...

.

The facade in colour

During the process of laser cleaning in the 1990s, it was discovered that the western façade of the cathedral was originally painted in multiple colours. A technique was perfected to determine the exact make-up of the colours as they were applied in the 13th century. Then, in conjunction with the laboratories of EDF (Electricity of France) and the expertise of the Society Skertzo, elaborate lighting techniques were developed to project these colours directly on the façade with precision, recreating the polychromatic appearance of the 13th century. When projected on the statues around the portals, the result is a stunning display that brings the figures to life. The projected colors are faint to photograph, but a good quality DSLR will provide excellent results as shown here.

Of course, the full magical effect can best be appreciated by direct viewing, accompanied by stirring music, which can be done at the Son et lumière
Son et lumière (show)
Son et lumière , or a sound and light show, is a form of nighttime entertainment that is usually presented in an outdoor venue of historic significance....

on Summer evenings, during the Christmas Fair, and over the New Year.

The interior

Amiens cathedral contains the largest medieval interior in Western Europe, supported by 126 pillars. Both the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 and the chancel
Chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 are vast but extremely light, with considerable amounts of stained glass surviving, despite the depredations of war.

The ambulatory surrounding the choir is richly decorated with polychrome
Polychrome
Polychrome is one of the terms used to describe the use of multiple colors in one entity. It has also been defined as "The practice of decorating architectural elements, sculpture, etc., in a variety of colors." Polychromatic light is composed of a number of different wavelengths...

 sculpture and flanked by numerous chapels. One of the most sumptuous is the Drapers' chapel. The cloth industry was the most dynamic component of the medieval economy, especially in northern France, and the cloth merchants were keen to display their wealth and civic pride. Another striking chapel is dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, a 13th century dedication that complements the cathedral's own very full list of martyrs.

The interior contains works of art and decoration from every period since the building of the cathedral.

The Baptist's head

The initial impetus for the building of the cathedral came from the installation of the reputed head of John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 on 17 December 1206. The head was part of the loot of the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

, which had been diverted from campaigning against the Turks to sacking the great Christian city of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. A sumptuous reliquary was made to house the skull. Although later lost, a 19th century replica still provides a focus for prayer and meditation in the North aisle.

Renaissance polychrome sculpture

Some of the most important works of art are sequences of polychrome
Polychrome
Polychrome is one of the terms used to describe the use of multiple colors in one entity. It has also been defined as "The practice of decorating architectural elements, sculpture, etc., in a variety of colors." Polychromatic light is composed of a number of different wavelengths...

 sculpture, dating mainly from the late 15th and the 16th centuries. A large sequence in the North transept illustrates Jesus' Cleansing of the Temple, with imaginative tableaux of the Temple. Both sides of the ambulatory are lined with sequences illustrating the lives of the two saints whose cults brought large numbers of pilgrims to the cathedral: John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 and St Firmin, the first bishop of Amiens. The artists took care to create a parallelism in the telling of the stories: both saints, decapitated for offending the rich and powerful, suffer neglect and loss, until a later generation discovers their relics and houses them fittingly.

The pulpit

The baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 pulpit
Pulpit
Pulpit is a speakers' stand in a church. In many Christian churches, there are two speakers' stands at the front of the church. Typically, the one on the left is called the pulpit...

, constructed of marble and gilded wood, dominates the nave of the cathedral. It is supported by three allegorical female figures, apparently representing Faith, Hope and Charity
Faith, Hope and Charity
Saints Faith, Hope and Charity , Church Slavonic: are a group of Christian martyred saints. Their mother is said to have been Sophia ; Sapientia is also mentioned in some accounts, though not as their mother. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, these were, in fact, two groups bearing the...

, the three Theological Virtues
Theological virtues
Theological virtues - in theology and Christian philosophy, are the character qualities associated with salvation, resulting from the grace of God, which enlightens human mind.- In the Bible :The three theological virtues are:...

.

In popular culture

  • In the book Mr Standfast
    Mr Standfast
    Mr Standfast is the third of five Richard Hannay novels by John Buchan, first published in 1919 by Hodder & Stoughton, London.It is one of two Hannay novels set during the First World War, the other being Greenmantle ; Hannay's first and best-known adventure, The Thirty-Nine Steps , is set in the...

    , John Buchan has his character Richard Hannay describe the cathedral as being "the noblest church that the hand of man ever built only for God."
  • The cathedral was featured in the video game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
    Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
    Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is a psychological horror action-adventure video game released for the Nintendo GameCube. Developed by Canadian developer Silicon Knights and originally planned for the Nintendo 64, it was first released and published by Nintendo on June 24, 2002 in North America...

    . In the game it first appeared as a chapel in the final year of Charlemagne
    Charlemagne
    Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

    's reign; the next period it was appeared in was during the height of the Spanish Inquisition
    Spanish Inquisition
    The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition , commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition , was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval...

    . Lastly, it was used as an hospital for injured soldiers during World War One. Though the Amiens Cathedral was renamed Oublie Cathedral.
  • The cathedral was featured in an episode of the PBS
    Public Broadcasting Service
    The Public Broadcasting Service is an American non-profit public broadcasting television network with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. Its headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia....

     science show NOVA
    NOVA (TV series)
    Nova is a popular science television series from the U.S. produced by WGBH Boston. It can be seen on the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States, and in more than 100 other countries...

    as an example of design flaws that now threaten the structural integrity of Gothic cathedrals. In this case improperly installed flying buttresses have resulted in the main supports bowing out over time. Measurements indicate that the structure's walls were built to a height of 144 units, echoing a statement in the book of Revelation that the walls of heaven's mansions would be 144 cubits high.
  • The 1979 album Winter Songs by Art Bears
    Art Bears
    Art Bears were an English avant-rock group formed during the disassembly of Henry Cow in 1978 by three of its members, Chris Cutler , Fred Frith and Dagmar Krause...

     comprises fourteen short songs composed by Fred Frith
    Fred Frith
    Fred Frith is an English multi-instrumentalist, composer and improvisor.Probably best known for his guitar work, Frith first came to attention as one of the founding members of the English avant-rock group Henry Cow. Frith was also a member of Art Bears, Massacre and Skeleton Crew...

     around texts by Chris Cutler
    Chris Cutler
    Chris Cutler is an English percussionist, composer, lyricist and music theorist. Best known for his work with English avant-rock group Henry Cow, Cutler was also a member and drummer of a number of other bands, including Art Bears, News from Babel, Pere Ubu and Gong/Mothergong...

     that were based on carvings on the dado
    Dado (architecture)
    In architectural terminology, the dado, borrowed from Italian meaning die or plinth, is the lower part of a wall, below the dado rail and above the skirting board....

    of the Cathedral's west facade.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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