Aix-en-Provence Cathedral

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Facade of the cathedral on the Place de l'Université

The Saint-Sauveur Cathedral is located on the Place de l'Université in Aix-en-Provence . The forum was located here in Roman times and, according to legend, the church was built on the foundations of an ancient temple of Apollo . Due to various alterations over time, the cathedral assembles a large number of different architectural styles.

The building is 70 meters long, 46 meters wide, and the interior is 20 meters high. Since 1875 it has had the title of papal minor basilica . In the same year the cultural monument was classified as a monument historique .


The cathedral stands on the old Via Aurelia . A fragment of a Roman wall and the columns in the baptistery gave rise to the legend that Saint-Sauveur stands on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo. The historian Pitton (1654) writes that this temple was dedicated to a sun god, and relies on a statue found here. According to Christian tradition , after Maximinus von Aix had come from Palestine with Mary Magdalene , he built a small chapel at this point, which he consecrated to the Savior. This chapel was destroyed in the 8th or 9th century during the Saracen invasions .

Architecture of the cathedral


The most important church in the city was built in different architectural styles from the 12th to the 17th century. It originally had a Latin cross plan with a five-bay nave, a transept and an apse. The current high-Gothic building was commissioned by Archbishop Rostan de Noves in 1285. The church has no tower, but a campanile (from 1323), which is composed of two structures that taper towards the top, the upper one having an octagonal floor plan. You can feel the proximity to Italy: Aix-en-Provence is, in terms of art history, Mediterranean and not Gothic . Gothic ideas from the north have been applied to the facade without adopting the whole principle.

The late Gothic portal has precious door leaves carved from walnut wood, which are usually hidden behind a panel. They were carved by Jean Guiramand from 1508 to 1510 in the latest Gothic style (Flamboyant Gothic) and in places already show traces of the Renaissance . The lower part of the door is decorated with figures of four Old Testament prophets and the upper part with figures of the twelve Capitoline Sibyls . The door frames are lined with buttresses adorned with niches and pinnacles .

The oldest part of the church stands today on the right side of the south aisle. It is a baptistery , the lower part of which dates from the end of the 4th century. The interior has an octagonal shape that is typical of the Merovingian period, the core area is also surrounded by eight columns ( spolia ) with Corinthian capitals, i.e. columns from Roman times that have been used again.

The number eight has a symbolic meaning in Christian mythology. Eight means a new beginning and resurrection: on the eighth day after the Sabbath , Christ rose from the dead, eight days later he appeared to the disciples, eight people survived in Noah's ark . The octagon also mediates between the square as the symbol of matter and the circle as the symbol of spirit; it stands between this world and the hereafter according to the connection between earthly and heavenly.

Six of the eight columns are made of green marble , two of granite . The large baptismal font , which was also octagonal, was primarily intended for adult baptism . The vault and, above all, the light-colored drum were built much later and added, which permanently disturbed the early Christian impression.

The interior of the church is designed in a simple Gothic style without any characteristic features.

The 12th-century Romanesque cloister is one of the most important in Provence, along with that of Saint-Trophime in Arles . The arcades supported by small, slender twin columns are characteristic . The columns are made of marble and adorned with beautiful scenic capitals, none of which are the same. The cloister is flat and always has been. This had the advantage that it eliminated the structural problems of the vault pushing, which the builders otherwise had to deal with. Here, as in Arles, it was therefore not necessary to put heavy pillars in the arcade zone to the inner courtyard to intercept the vaulting. Here an uninterrupted series of slender columns could surround the courtyard.

Aygosi altar

Aygosi altar

The stone Aygosi altar, which originally stood in the Carmelite Church, was installed in Saint-Sauveur in 1823. According to an inscription on the left, it dates back to 1470 and can be traced back to a local nobleman named Urbain Aygosi. The main sculptor was Audinet Stéphani, who came from the Cambrai diocese and worked in Provence from 1446 to 1476.

Works of art

Triptych by Nicolas Froment

The triptych of the Burning Bush altarpiece is undoubtedly one of the cathedral's greatest treasures . It was made in 1476 by Nicolas Froment , who belongs to the Avignon school and is considered one of the most important exponents of Provencal painting of the fifteenth century. The middle panel of the winged altar shows Mary in the burning bush. On the left wing, King René , who commissioned the triptych, is depicted with Saints Anthony , Mauritius and Maria Magdalena . His wife Jeanne de Laval is depicted on the right wing of the altar together with Saints John , Nicholas and Catherine . The work comes from the Couvent des Grands-Carmes, which was destroyed during the Revolution , and is considered the most perfect example of Provencal art.

Other works of art:

  • Transfiguration du Sauveur ( Transfiguration of the Lord ), by Jean Daret the Younger
  • La Cène (The Last Supper), by Jean Daret the Elder
  • L'Incrédulité de saint Thomas (The Disbelief of Saint Thomas), by Finsonius
  • Le Triomphe de la foi (The Triumph of Faith)
  • La Résurrection de Lazare (The Resurrection of Lazarus), by Christophe Veyrier, a pupil of Pierre Puge ; this work comes from the chapel of the Carmelite monastery
  • 17 tapestries by the Flemish painter Quentin Massys

Photo gallery


Organ of the Saint-Sauveur cathedral

There are two organs in the cathedral : the choir organ and the main organ on the gallery, which has 40 registers on three manuals and a pedal . The playing and stop actions are mechanical. The orgue principal (main organ) is equipped with a barker machine .

I Positif intérieur C – f 3
Bourdon 8th'
Salicional 8th'
Prestant 4 ′
Sesquialtera II
Duplicate 2 ′
Picolo 1'
Plein jeu IV
Trumpets 8th'
Cromorne 8th'
Clairon 4 ′
II Grand Orgue C – f 3
Bourdon 16 ′
Bourdon 8th'
Montre 8th'
Flute 8th'
Viol 8th'
Prestant 4 ′
Fifth 2 23
Duplicate 2 ′
Cornet V
Fittings V.
Bombarde 16 ′
1st trumpet 8th'
2nd trumpet 8th'
Clairon 4 ′
III Récit expressif C – f 3
Viol 8th'
Voix céleste 8th'
Flute 8th'
Bourdon 8th'
Flûte octave 4 ′
Octavine 2 ′
Basson Hautbois 16 ′
Trumpets 8th'
Voix humaine 8th'
Pedale C – f 1
Soubasse 16 ′
Flute 16 ′
Flute 8th'
Flute 4 ′
Bombard 16 ′
Trumpets 8th'
Clairon 4 ′

Web links

Commons : Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d'Aix  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  • La Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur d'Aix-en-Provence , Pierre Coste u. a. , Édisud, Aix-en-Provence, 1982, 1988.
  • Les Rues d'Aix , Roux-Alphéran , 1846.
  • Evocation du vieil Aix-en-Provence , André Bouyala d'Arnaud, éd. de Minuit, 1964.
  • Annales de la sainte église d'Aix , J.-S. Pitton, Lyon, 1668.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Giovanna Magi: Provence , 1982, pp. 7-11.
  2. Information on the organ

Coordinates: 43 ° 31 '54.6 "  N , 5 ° 26' 48.6"  E