Amiens Cathedral

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Amiens Cathedral
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

0 Amiens - Cathédrale Notre-Dame (1) .JPG
National territory: FranceFrance France
Type: Culture
Criteria : (i) (ii)
Surface: 1.54 ha
Buffer zone: 115 ha
Reference No .: 162bis
UNESCO region : Europe and North America
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1981  ( session 5 )
Extension: 2013
Original floor plan of the cathedral without the later added chapels on both sides of the nave

Notre Dame d'Amiens Cathedral is a Gothic church in Amiens , France , which was built in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. was raised to the minor basilica . The cultural monument , classified as Monument historique in 1862 and included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1981 , has also been part of the World Heritage Site " Camino de Santiago in France " since 1998 . The sacred building has the highest central nave vault of all French (apart from the never completed cathedral of Beauvais )Cathedrals (42.30 m), famous architectural sculptures and an impressive west facade. In contrast to almost all other churches of the Middle Ages , their construction did not begin with the choir , but with the nave.

In terms of architectural history , Notre-Dame d'Amiens is one of the three classic cathedrals of the French High Gothic of the 13th century, alongside Notre-Dame de Chartres and Notre-Dame de Reims . It became the architectural model for the Cologne Cathedral , which began shortly afterwards, and many centuries later for St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City .

Building history

The cathedral of Amiens stands on the site of an older church, of which we only know that it was rebuilt after a fire in 1137 and consecrated in 1152, but was destroyed by a new fire in 1218. This was an - almost welcome - occasion for a new building, which once again expanded the original area so that the choir actually stood in the former city wall. At the instigation of Bishop Evrard de Fouilloy , the new building was decided with the consent of the clergy and people. Setting the tone for this building was, among other things, the idea of ​​shedding the extravaganzas that can be found in the cathedral of Reims and Chartres. The builder Robert de Luzarches , who is now believed to have been trained in the construction of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, was commissioned with the execution . In 1220, Bishop Evrard laid the foundation stone. Robert de Luzarches built according to a drawn plan, which was an innovation for the time. First the nave with the west facade was built because the space for the expansion to the east was not yet available. At that time, construction began in the east; the sanctuary and choir area should first be built for the celebration of the liturgy. Between 1240 and 1258 the building was suspended for lack of money. It was completed by the builders Thomas de Cormont and his son Renaut in the style of de Luzarches. Later, apart from the construction of the side chapels, between 1292 and 1375 the work on the main facade above the rose was completed at the same time as the south tower in 1366. The higher north tower should not be finished until the beginning of the 15th century. The crossing tower ( roof turret ) dates from the 16th century. The enormous speed of construction was achieved through the rationalization of the stonemasonry , which for the first time mass-produced ashlar stones based on a small number of models and no longer had to fit each stone individually on site. This made it possible to cut the stones on a weatherproof side building, which meant that work could be carried out all year round. This led to a typification of the building elements, i.e. the stones to be moved were increasingly standardized so that they could be moved faster and more smoothly with the new machines that were added.

The current state of the building is the result of renovations in the 18th century. For example, the choir was adapted to the liturgical conditions, and a pulpit and seating were installed. In the 19th century, François-Auguste Cheussey worked as a diocesan master builder at the cathedral from 1816 to 1848 .


Dimensions and measurements

West facade with nighttime illumination

The Amiens Cathedral is now the largest French church building from the Middle Ages. The length is 145 meters outside and 133.50 meters inside. The church is 42.30 meters high from the ground to the keystone. At the time of its builder it was the tallest church in the world. This challenged the bishop and clergy of Beauvais , and they built their church even higher; In 1284 it collapsed. The central nave is, measured from pillar axis to pillar axis, 14.60 meters wide, the side aisle 8.65 meters. The crossing tower has a height of 112.70 meters. The length of the transept is 62 meters, the width 29.30 meters. The area on which the cathedral rests has the dimensions of 7700 square meters, the volume is 200,000 cubic meters, which is twice that of Notre-Dame de Paris .

  • External length: 145 m
  • Inner length: 133.50 m
  • Width of the ship: 14.60 m
  • Length of the transept: 70 m
  • Height of the central nave: 42.30 m
  • Tower height ( roof ridge above the crossing ): 112.70 m
  • Facade area: 7700 m²
  • Room volume: 200,000 m³


The foundations of the Amiens Cathedral reach an average of seven to nine meters in depth and form a grate on whose intersection the pillars stand. With the individual foundations customary at the time, there would have been a risk of lateral displacement, but they were stiffened on solid clay. The foundations were then stiffened again with infill masonry. The deviations in the distance between pillars are a maximum of one to two centimeters; Great emphasis was placed on the structural accuracy and durability of the cathedral.



In deviation from the usual, the construction of the cathedral in Amiens began with the nave and not the east choir. The extreme increase in height in Amiens had consequences for the design compared to the facade in Reims, which was built a little later. The rose window had to be moved up so far that the royal gallery had to be relocated below the rose, which did not give the facade the dynamic balance that Reims later had. For some, this viewing area is a bit excessive and exaggerated; she has "too much of everything". W. Sauerländer said that the facade would become "a teaching building that speaks in statues and reliefs".

West facade

Main portal of the west facade

This facade offers the greatest wealth of statues , which have been preserved in their perfect order from their creation. It builds up fivefold in the horizontal sense. In the main portal , the so-called “Redeemer Portal”, apostles and prophets support the pointed arches built on the figures , richly adorned with crabs and topped with eyelashes . Above the lintels are - richly illustrated - the tympana divided into several fields by horizontal stripes , each ending with a pointed arch. Above the ground floor there is a gallery that corresponds to the triforium that extends around the entire room inside. Above is the King's Gallery and another gallery above, which, like the superstructures between the towers, was designed by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century . Above is the rose storey with an imposing rose window , above the two different towers . It is noticeable that the towers actually only consist of buttresses between which a small gallery has been inserted. In the Middle Ages, the facade was colored, which is simulated with nighttime illuminations.

North side

Structurally, the building can be viewed from this side, as the buttresses and arches are best seen here. The geometric division of the upper aisle with the tracery windows can also be clearly seen. The upper clad windows of the nave have four lanes. The arches are combined in pairs. The middle post is stronger and continues together with the two lateral posts down into the triforium (only visible from the inside). In the spandrels between subordinate arches are four-passoculi , in the superior arch there is an eight-passoculus . With this size one can already speak of a rosette . The upper zone of these windows represents a crowning of tracery. The many different tracery windows do not allow individual viewing for reasons of space. The buttresses close at the top with so-called pinnacles that, decorated with crabs, end in a finial . On the side you can see gargoyles and water hammer, which serve to repel rainwater away from the building. Above the ground floor, you can see an exterior walkway with a rain gutter, behind which the aisle roof connects. Above the monopitch roof are the buttresses between supporting pillars, which have been extended by a pillar for structural reasons, and buttresses.

The structure of the south side basically corresponds to that of the north side.

East choir

This allows a view of the choir with the seven apses , whereby the chapel is longer on the longitudinal axis. The roofs of the chapels are octagonal. The gable roofs of the transept and the choir as well as the crossing tower are also clearly visible from the southeast . The two chapels in front are external structures. Overall, the walk around the cathedral shows a creative contrast between the choir and the nave. The buttresses and pillars on the choir are much more elaborate.

In the ambulatory, directly behind the altar, is the tomb of Canon Guilain Lucas († 1628), on which the famous statue of the Weeping Angel by Nicolas Blasset can be seen. The statue was very popular with the local population, especially in the 19th century. During the First World War, the angel was a popular motif on postcards that British soldiers sent home to their families.

Main nave of the cathedral
Wall elevation of the central nave
Floor labyrinth, approx. 12 m × 5 m, restored 1894–1897 based on the destroyed model from 1288


The current floor plan is largely based on a plan by Durand from 1727.

The cathedral is a longitudinal building with three naves in the nave and five naves in the eastern choir. Six chapels were added to the side aisles of the cathedral in the north and five on the south side, which, like the aisle bays, have a relatively square floor plan . The central nave bays are rectangular.

The three-aisled transept separates the choir and nave roughly in the middle; the crossing is framed by four much larger pillars. The transept is symmetrical to the longitudinal axis and has portals on both sides.

The choir area is slightly raised by a few steps and is closed off by seven arcade arches that form a semicircle around the choir room and are closed with metal grilles. Behind this semicircular arcade is the ambulatory, which leads past seven apses used as chapels, whereby the middle one (see above), which is dedicated to the Mother of God, has a depression in the longitudinal direction and thus rises to the main apse. The outer aisles of the choir end - seen from the transept - at smaller altars.

When looking at the floor plan, the very large buttresses on the outer walls appear particularly striking compared to the marginal walls and slim bundle pillars . The plan of the building reveals the builder's intention to create a slim, filigree interior.

inner space

The main portal is on the west facade. You step directly into the imposing, light-flooded nave, which draws its brightness from the large tracery windows in the upper aisle . The masonry is reduced to a minimum. In the arcade floor there are bundle pillars or cantoned pillars on a plinth and base. From the capitals , old ministries rise to the girdle arch and young ministries to the cross ribs . The continuous services of the central nave and the choir seem to want to reinforce the vertical look. The arcades reach the height of the top and triforium together.

Above the arcade arches of the central and transepts, a leaf profile extends around the entire cathedral, as does the triforium adjoining it, which is provided with tracery panels. There is no closed back wall in the triforium of the choir, this causes the dark floor to appear as a light zone, which is optically drawn together with the richly structured tracery. The design of the choir and the transept differs from that of the main nave. The windows above the choir and transept are, for example, six-lane, in contrast to the four-lane in the upper aisle of the central nave of the nave.

The floor is ornamentally covered with light and dark stone tiles. Particularly noteworthy is the design of the labyrinth , a memorial plaque in honor of the builders and builders of the cathedral in the center of the nave. People who could not afford the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (almost all of them) could receive an indulgence by walking and praying on the labyrinth. The cross-ribbed yokes of the nave are slightly wider than those of the transept. In the crossing they form a star vault . The large rose windows above the main portal and the side entrances of the transept are omnipresent in the cathedral.

When looking at the current floor plan of the cathedral, the chapels that were subsequently attached to the outer walls of the aisles are striking. On the one hand, they considerably expanded the original three-aisled church space and formed a more harmonious transition to the five-aisled choir, on the other hand, they formed a source of income for the cathedral chapter, as they were donated by wealthy families or craft guilds. This idea was very well received across Europe; therefore such chapels can be found on many (not only Gothic) cathedrals today.


View through the nave to the organ

The first organ was built in 1429 on the newly built west gallery. This instrument has been rebuilt and expanded several times. In the years 1887–1889 the instrument was reorganized by the organ building company Cavaillé-Coll , whereby two manual works (Grand Orgue, Récit) were equipped with Barker machines. In 1936 the pedals were expanded and in 1965 the disposition of the Grand Orgue and Pedal was changed for the last time. Today the instrument has 57 registers on three manuals and a pedal. The playing actions are mechanical.

I Positif de Dos C – g 3
01. Montre 08th'
02. Bourdon 08th'
03. Flûte à fuseau0 08th'
04th Prestant 04 ′
05. Flûte douce 04 ′
06th Nazard 02 23
07th Fourth 02 ′
08th. Tierce 01 35
09. Fittings IV
10. Trumpets 08th'
11. Cromorne 08th'
12. Clairon 04 ′
II Grand Orgue C-g 3
13. Montre 16 ′
14th Bourdon 16 ′
15th Montre 08th'
16. Bourdon 08th'
17th Flûte harmonique 08th'
18th diapason 08th'
19th Salicional 08th'
20th Prestant 04 ′
21st Flute 04 ′
22nd Nazard 02 23
23. Duplicate 02 ′
24. Cornet V
25th Fittings VI0
26th Cymbals IV
27. Bombard 16 ′
28. Trumpets 08th'
29 Clairon 04 ′
III Recit expressif C – g 3
30th Quintaton 16 ′
31. Diapason flute 08th'
32. Cor de nuit 08th'
33. Viol 08th'
34. Voix céleste 08th'
35. Prestant 04 ′
36. Flûte à cheminée0 04 ′
37. Octavine 02 ′
38. Cornet V
39. Cymbals IV
40. Bombard 16 ′
41. Trumpets 08th'
42. Basson-Hautbois 08th'
43. Voix humaine 08th'
44. Clairon 04 ′
Pedale C – f 1
45. Bourdon 32 ′
46. Principal 16 ′
47. Contrebasse 16 ′
48. Soubasse 16 ′
49. Principal 08th'
50. Bourdon 08th'
51. Flute 08th'
52. Prestant 04 ′
53. Flute 04 ′
54. Fittings IV0
55. Bombard 16 ′
56. Trumpets 08th'
57. Clairon 04 ′
  • Pairing :
    • Normal coupling I / II, III / II, I / P, II / P, III / P
    • Sub-octave coupling: I / II, II / II, III / II



The cathedral has nine bells . Three of them serve as bells for the clock strike . The four smallest bells form a uniform little bell that hangs separately in the south tower. The north tower contains the two great Bourdons Marie and Firmine-Mathilde .

Casting year
Strike tone
1 Marie 1736 Philippe Cavillier as 0 North, above
2 Firmine-Mathilde 1903 Bolleé b 0 North, above
3 Caroline Bathilde 1833 Apollinaire Cavillier as 1 South, above
4th Angelus bell 1609 Melchior Guérin b 1 South, above
5 Antoinette-Judith 1833 Apollinaire Cavillier c 2 South, above
6th Louise-Lucie 1833 Apollinaire Cavillier of the 2nd South, above
I. Hour bell 1546 Melchior Guérin it 1 South, roof
II Smaller quarter-hour bell 1588 g 2 South, roof
III Larger quarter-hour bell 1588 a 2 South, roof

See also


  • Louis Grodecki : Gothic architecture ("Architettura gotia"). Belser, Stuttgart 1976, ISBN 3-7630-1706-2 ( World history of architecture; 6).
  • Dieter Kimpel u. a .: Gothic architecture in France 1130–1270. New edition Hirmer, Munich, 1995, ISBN 3-7774-6650-6 .
  • Pierre Leroy: Cathédrale d'Amiens. Édition Latines, Paris 1989, ISBN 2-7233-0103-6 .
  • Werner Müller, Günther Vogel: Dtv atlas on architecture. Boards and texts. Dtv, Munich 1974 (2 volumes)
    • 2. Vol. Building history from the Romanesque to the present. 6th edition 1989, ISBN 3-423-03021-6 .
  • Henri Stierlin: The Architecture of the World. Hirmer, Munich 1977, ISBN 3-7774-2900-7 . P. 261ff.
  • Rolf Toman (ed.): The art of the Gothic. Architecture, sculpture, painting. Könemann, Cologne 1998, ISBN 3-89508-313-5 .
  • Dieter Matti: Monthly pictures, companion through the year. Desertina, Chur 2014, ISBN 978-3-85637-460-0 , pp. 3–6. (With detailed documentation of the monthly cycle.)
  • Stephen Murray: Notre-Dame, Cathedrale of Amiens. CUP, Cambridge 1996.
  • J.-L. Bouilleret (ed.): Amiens, la grace d'une cathédrale. Strasbourg 2012.

Web links

Commons : Amiens Cathedral  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Dieter Kimpel, Robert Suckale: The Gothic Architecture in France: 1130-1270 . Hirmer Verlag, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-7774-6650-6 , p. 32 (revised study edition).
  2. More information about the organ
  3. La grâce d'une cathédrale | La cathédrale d'Amiens en musique | The cloches de la cathédrale

Coordinates: 49 ° 53 ′ 42.5 "  N , 2 ° 18 ′ 7.6"  E