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The Notre Dame Cathedral towering in the centre of Amiens, the main city of Picardy, a historical province in North-Western France, is the largest Gothic building in the country. It was built over three centuries, by the efforts and talent of distinguished French architects — Robert de Ljusare (XIII century), Volume of Carmona and his son Rene (XV century).
Existed here before the Romanesque Cathedral burned down in 1218 in a fire caused by a lightning strike. But located near the Cathedral the small Church survived. In it were kept the relics of St. Firmin, first Bishop of Amiens, therefore, the Church cannot be demolished until the completion of the new Cathedral, where later moved the Saint’s relics.
The first stone in the Foundation of the new temple was laid in 1220 when Bishop Arnaud de La Pierre (he died in 1247 and was buried in the Central chapel of the Cathedral). The project architect Robert de Luzarches took Chartres Cathedral, several altered his configuration. The stone to build, hard gray Sandstone, brought from quarries in the vicinity of Amiens.
According to the original plan of the tower of the Cathedral was supposed to build twice as wide and much higher than the existing. However, they were built only to half the designed height, leaving the tower hardly rises above the roof of the Cathedral. In 1366 there was acatalasemia tent over the South tower and the North tower was completed only in the early fifteenth century. Different height and figure, they give the facade of the Cathedral of extraordinary picturesqueness.
The Amiens Cathedral is beautiful from all sides. Slim tower tent lantern above the crossing enhances the overall impression of striving upward and emphasizes the height of Gothic design. Light graceful buttresses, surmounted with pinnacles that rise from the base of the Cathedral to its roof.
On the Western facade of the building there are three sculpted portals; the Central portal is decorated with the famous statue of the blessing Christ. Presented here is the Savior’s contemporaries called “the Good God of Amiens”. His whole appearance exudes strength of spirit and didactic insistence. It is felt in tightly pursed lips, raised up for the blessing hand, in the determination with which Amiens Christ tramples on symbols of sin and death — the lion and the Chimera.
The portal of the southern facade is decorated with the famous sculpture of the “Gilded virgin”, Dating from the mid XIII century. The virgin in the crown of the Heavenly Queen gently smiling at the baby. In the bend of the figure and the graceful gesture of the hand spirituality is combined with elegance. It was once gilded, for which he received its name.
The entrances to the Cathedral is framed by figures of apostles and saints, and trim — the seated figures of chimeras. The second and third tier is decorated with elegant arcades — the so-called “openwork gallery”, the fourth is the traditional “gallery of Kings”.
The Amiens Cathedral is impressive for its size. Its length is 145 m, the maximum width -59 m, the height of the arches of the Central nave reaches 42,5 m width of the nave is 14.5 m, total building area is 7800 sq. m. the Cathedral is so large that could accommodate the entire population of Amiens, numbering at that time about 10 thousand people.
The inner space of Amiens Cathedral — the high and spacious — it seems chic and austere, Grand and cozy. The temple walls almost devoid of decoration — surrounds their only relief garland. Going deep into a slim, lightweight colonnade with a height of 18 m creates the impression of space, permeated by air and light. Much of this feeling is achieved due to the considerable size of the building, but even more because of a lack of traditional stained glass.
As regards the construction of the choir, the architects of Amiens even refused triforia rear wall (which used to be considered a mandatory element), whereby this stage, dark in other churches, there was a brightly lit and visually joined with wonderful openwork tracery of the upper Windows of the Central nave.
The Central nave (elevation of 42.5 meters, width of 14.3 m) is a three-tiered structure: in the middle tier for arcade of triforia is a narrow gallery. Starting with 1292 the side aisles were extended due to the extension of the chapels (including the chapel of the cardinal Delagrange, one of the earliest examples of flamboyant Gothic architecture). The Eastern part is short, but wide and spacious choir transept are illuminated through the Windows of triforia. In bypass gallery of the choir, five chapels.
Great Central nave of the Cathedral was seen as the personification of the idea of a vertical composition of a Gothic Cathedral; tripartite division of its walls the height of the arcade piers of the lower layer reached a height of triforia and lantern together. The sense of height is enhanced by the streams of light pouring through the glass of the lamp, a slim, soaring groups of columns with pointed arches, and a sleek vertical lines of the lattice stained glass Windows in the sanctuary.
In the Eastern part of the Amiens Cathedral window extended to the rear glazed wall of triforia. Thus, the entire area from the top of the arch to the main arcade is transformed into one huge box. In creating this experience is a greater role for the stone pattern, as the upper sashes of several Windows extended to the bottom and connected with arcades triforia.
Traditional rose-window made in the form of eight-petalled flower of the rose, reminiscent of a newly blossomed Bud. And rose and Lancet Windows with a height of 12 m have been previously glazed with multicolored stained glass. Therefore, the high vaults of the Cathedral seemed to be shaded and as it rested on the walls, shining with a soft iridescent light. Soft lighting fell while on the other hand — depending on time of day. And the lightest part of the Cathedral was the altar, illuminated by tall Lancet Windows of the apse. Such skillful light distribution, generally characteristic for the Gothic cathedrals of France, created a special sublime mood of praying.
During the great French revolution, when the statues and reliefs smashed by the thousands, injured many of the cathedrals in France. However, thanks to the efforts of influential citizens of Amiens, which was blocked by the revolutionaries access to the Cathedral, the losses there were minimal. Preserved 110 pews in the choir, performed in the beginning of XVI century which are considered the best in France.
Special mention deserves the main sanctuary of Amiens Cathedral — part of the skull of John the Baptist. The legend of this relic refers to the beginning of the XIII century to the time of the Fourth crusade, when the Canon of the Vallon de as Sarton from Bikinii found in Constantinople, at the ruins of one Palace case, in which was a silver dish. It under a glass cover were hidden the remains of a human face. Over my left eyebrow was visible a small hole is probably the trace of the dagger. On a platter, the Canon found the inscription in Greek, proved that he is the possessor of the relics of St. John the Baptist. In addition, the presence of the hole above the eyebrow went along with the event, mentioned by Saint Jerome. According to his testimony, Herodias, in a fit of anger stabbed with a dagger on the severed head of the Saint.
Vallon de as Sarton decided to bring the head of Saint John the Baptist on the North of France, in Picardy. On 17 December 1206 on the third Sunday of advent, the Catholic Bishop of Amiens Richard Gebarowski solemnly took the Holy relics of John the Baptist at the gates of the city. Probably the Bishop was convinced of the authenticity of the relics that it was easier to check then, as they say, “without delay”. Since that time, the main Shrine of the city — the front part of the head of St. John that is stored in Amiens Cathedral, is venerated in the whole of Picardy.
And the Amiens becomes a place of pilgrimage not only ordinary Christians, but also of the French kings, princes and princesses. The first to worship the head in 1264 came to the king of France, Louis IX, surnamed the Holy. Then it was visited by his son Charles VI and Charles VII, who made rich donations for the decoration of the relics.
During the great French revolution, when he seized Church property and relics, a similar fate befell the Amiens Cathedral. In November 1793, the reliquary with the head of Saint John the Baptist was demanded by representatives of the Convention. They confiscated all the jewels and the relic ordered to bury on a local cemetery. However, the order of the revolutionary authorities had not been executed.
The mayor of Amiens Louis Alexander Lekov secretly returned to looted the Treasury and with the risk of their lives took the relics to his house. After a few years the former mayor transferred the Holy relic to save the Abbe Lejeune. And in 1816, after the termination of the revolutionary persecution, the head of St. John, “the first grace of the Martyr”, was returned to the Cathedral in Amiens Cathedral, where since and is.
Although in the Gothic style were erected many churches both in France and in other European countries, the Amiens Cathedral is one of the most daring, original and harmonious buildings of the Gothic Church.