Sunday, 24 January 2016

Amiens Cathedral

On our way to the UK in December, we stopped off to look at the the city of Amiens, which is in north-east France, more precisely in the Picardy region. The cathedral basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, or simply Amiens cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral, set on a ridge overlooking the river Somme, scene of terrible fighting during WW1, from which it thankfully escaped without major damage, due to sandbag protective walls.  

It is said to be the 19th largest church in the world. At 42 metres (139 feet) high, it is not only the tallest complete cathedral in France, but also has the largest interior volume; 200,000 cubic metres (however they worked that out?!). It was built between 1220 and 1266 and has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1981!

Amiens during the 13th century, in the long and peaceful reign of Louis IX, was a prosperous place and money was raised for this huge undertaking. The cathedrals of Reims and Chartres were built about the same time.
A view of the cathedral, stunningly situated in its commanding position overlooking the old town buildings. Fires in the building in 1258 unfortunately destroyed many archives and chronicles kept there. The great height to which the side walls were built, caused stability problems and cracking, and over the following centuries, additional buttresses (side supports) had to be added to prevent this getting worse! Another repair involved wrapping a huge heated chain around it at an upper level; this contracted as it cooled, thus holding the stonework together! An astonishing 13th century bodge!


A few steps from the cathedral, near the Gambetta square, you can see the Dewailly clock. The clock was built at the request of, and with funds from, the former mayor of Amiens, Louis Dewailly.  After many years of manufacture, work was finally completed on 17 November 1898! Exquisite!


The magnificent west (and best known) face of the cathedral, built between 1220 and 1236. This façade is renowned for the quality and quantity of its carvings, many of which are locally revered saints and church officials. The towers were added about 150 years later, without much regard for what was already built below!!

You can see some of the original colour in the statue here.

Architecture and carving of the eastern front portal.

Statues illustrating Christ presiding over the Day of Judgement

Inside, the vaulted ceiling.

The altar and screen.

The organ, set behind the façade over the west entrance.

The extravagant baroque style pulpit.

Another view of the lofty vaulted ceiling, plus some stained glass (not the original) and gold leaf!

Architectural detail of carved stone window tracery.

Illumination of the façade by precision spotlighting (see more detail below) to recreate the colours in which the statues were painted when the cathedral was originally built in the 13th century. It must have seemed so spectacular to the local people and to pilgrims of the time!

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. Elaborate computer lighting techniques were developed to recreate these colours by precision projection of spotlights directly on the façade during the "son et lumiere" (Sound and light) shows held daily in December each year and periodically during the remainder of the year. If you are lucky enough to be there on a dry evening, as many people are, the one hour free show is a real privilege to witness! On the evening we went, the temperature was well below freezing, but there were nevertheless several hundred people watching the display.




Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 3 December 2015) 

47 comments:

  1. It's amazing and seems spectacular to me many centuries later. Happy New Year! May 2016 be a wonderful year for you and Nigel.

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    1. Thanks Joyful for the comment. The building is amazing and the lighting effects are fantastic. Hope you have a good 2016 as well. Take care Diane

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  2. Diane, These are some amazing photos. I'm so glad to learn more about this cathedral. I'll put it on my list of things to see once I move to France. My favorite of the photos is the one with the clock. The clock seems to glow. Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France today. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

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    1. Paulita thanks for the comment and yes this is certainly one to put on the list if you are in the Picardy region. You must be so looking forward to the move. Keep well Diane

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  3. I have always enjoyed looking at your pictures, they are amazing! I hope you all have a great 2016.

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    1. Thanks Christine, I hope tat 2016 is a good year for us all. Take care Diane

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  4. Hello dear Diane,
    Amiens is certainly one of the most beautiful cathedrals of France.
    Your photos are wonderful and show great details of the fabulous carvings.
    Warm hugs and I wish you a great monday :)

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    1. Thanks so much Noushka for your lovely comment. We took some great videos as well of the lighting in the evening, but sadly with our slow connection it is impossible for me to load them! Take care and I hope things are improving for you. A big hug and a good week Diane

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  5. I use to live half way between Bath and Wells so cathedrals were part of a normal shopping Saturday. I am still amazed out how these buildings were built.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Bath is our home town though I was born at Liliput near Poole. I was christened at Bath. Building in the old days were built properly, now they just put them up in a hurry! Hope you are well Diane

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  6. What a stunning cathedral. The stone work and architecture is beautiful. The illumination show would be breathtaking I do envisage. Isn't it amazing how modern technology can really enhance the enjoyment and relevance of these old buildings

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    1. It is quite beautiful and in its heyday with all the colours obvious I am sure it was stunning. Thanks goodness this time for modern technology showing us what it was like. Diane

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  7. Churches and cathedrals at your place are so beautiful. The design are just amazing.

    PS. I couldn't go through your blogs for the last couple of days. Glad I did this time.

    Take care.

    Rose

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    1. I am also glad you got through, wonder what the problem was! Thanks for the comment and following me for so long Diane

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  8. Hello Diane, I popped over here from your comment on Stewart's wild bird post. Originally we met on Lynda's blog. I've added myself to your following (I used to be, somehow disappeared under the radar!) I'd love to see you visiting me again. The cathedral above is beautiful. I love your take on the vaulted ceiling. Have a great day. Jo (South Africa)

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    1. Hi Jo you have never disappeared, I keep up with your travels and family, I have just not been commenting so much!! This is an amazing cathedral, very beautiful. Take care Diane

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  9. Ce sont de très belles photos de la cahédrale d'Amiens. L'édifice est magnifique, intérieur et extérieur. Le labyrinthe sur le sol de la nef est également très beau. Bonne journée.

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    1. Je vous remercie de votre visite et commentaires. La cathédrale est très belle. Bonne semaine Diane

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  10. Such wonderful photos, Diane. The cathedral is beautiful beyond expectation. The light show must be amazing.

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    1. Mary I would loved to have put the video of a small part of the light show on the post but our connection is too slow for me to add it sadly. Thanks for your visit and comment. I hope you are well Diane

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  11. Hello Diane , I had seen this post but wanted to read it on the laptop, not my phone. Absolutely amazing architecture. The statues in the entrance are fabulous. Reminds me of a cathedral in Rouen. Stunning. Inside is a work of art too. And what can I say about the illuminations? WOW so beautiful. Thanks for sharing and thank you for comment on my blog.. Take care Anne xx

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    1. Hi Anne, yes I am sure that on the phone it would not be quite the same! I have never been into the Rouen cathedral, we drive past in a hurry to get home, or to the UK!!!! I have always said that I think Reims Cathedral is the best but now I have two at the top of my list :-) The video at night is good, but our slow connection would not download it! Keep well and take care, we so often think of you. D & N xox

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  12. This cathedral is so beautiful. The photos are wonderful but I bet nothing is better than seeing those carvings for real. X

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    1. Thanks Maggie for the comment, the cathedral is beautiful and the laser show stunning. Keep well Diane

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  13. I wish I had known about the illuminations when we were living in France as we used to drive through Amiens to visit the family in Belgium.
    Super post,lovely photographs!

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    1. Fly the laser show was amazing but being December it was very chilly. It is on for an hour with talking and music. I would have liked to have stayed for the full show but standing still for 30 mins was as long as we could stand. Hope you are both doing well, take care Diane

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  14. It's amazing such a huge structure remains standing at all. Love all the fine detail both inside and out.

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    1. Gaelyn these old buildings were built to last it seems and they are doing exactly that with a little help and restoration. Glad to have you back on line Diane

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  15. It must have taken ages to carve all those little statues of Christ, but the result is stunning x

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    1. Years of work Kerry, but they have also survived through weather and wars! Have a good weekend Diane

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  16. I am always in awe of cathedrals and their spender. You photos are magnificent Diane.
    Sam

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    1. Sam this place is quite magnificent. It always amazes me the incredible workmanship of so many years ago. Craft which have mostly got lost along the way! Have a good weekend Diane

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  17. Dear Diane,hi
    Thank you very much for your visit and your polite comment!
    Very interesting and monumental Cathedral! Your photos are great! I would love to be on Sound and Light.
    Many greetings to you and Nigel.

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    1. Thanks Magda for your kind comment. It is an amazing cathedral and so very beautiful. Take care and have a good weekend. Diane

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  18. Oh my gosh Diane it's after midnight here in Perth and I am swooning over these shots. What an amazing sight this is. A heated chain around the upper levels to contract and hold it all together in the 13th century is mindboggling! The Dewailly clock is stunning but I have to admit the sight that took my breath away was the vaulted ceilings in the cathedral, so very very beautiful. Merci beaucoup for this visual treat and have a wonderful weekend Diane.

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    1. Thanks so much for the great comment. I have to say I agree those vaulted ceilings are just out of this world. I am so glad that Nigel picked our overnight stop here, he is great at picking places of interest. Take care and enjoy what is left of your weekend. Diane

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  19. It is a few years since I last spent any time in Amiens, like you it would have been en route to the UK. I had forgotten how imposing the cathedral is, enjoyed the virtual tour. Have a good weekend.

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    1. Thanks Linda, it is an amazing place, so majestic. I am glad that you have seen it in real life so the photos should bring back memories for you. Have a good Sunday. Diane

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  20. What amazing pictures Diane!
    I loved this virtual tour!!
    Hugs !!

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    1. Thanks Gloria, it is an amazing place to look at and great to photograph. Keep well Diane

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  21. Such an interesting post, Diana. Isn't it mind boggling how something that large could be built without all the heavy equipment that is used in present day construction.

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    1. Karen it never ceases to amaze me how they built things in the olden days without modern equipment, but not only did they succeed, but buildings have survived far more years than today's buildings will!! Keep well Diane.

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  22. Hello Diana, such amazing, majestic cathedral. Beautiful photos, your have great photography skill. Just to let you know I am your newest follower. I am inviting you to follow me back. Thank you and have a beautiful day!

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    1. Hi Nancy and my name is Diane, no 'a' at the end :-) Thanks for popping in and leaving a comment, also for following. Will take a look at your blog right now. Take care Diane

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    2. Nancy have just had a look at your blog and I cannot comment on it as you are on Google plus. I changed to plus and had so many people complaining that they could not comment that I changed back. I now cannot comment on your blog!! Diane

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  23. What an amazing cathedral!. The fact that such a huge and ornate building was built so long ago never ceases to amaze me. (Even if the walls are falling down) The carvings and vaulted ceilings are just awe inspiring. The light show must have been beautiful.

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    1. Diane it never ceases to amaze me either. How did the build it without modern day equipment, and how does it survive for so long with such beauty. The light show was fantastic, but sadly being December it was very cold and after 30 minutes we were frozen and missed the last half! Keep well t'other Diane

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