The Cathédrale St-Sauveur (Holy Savior Cathedral) in Aix-en-Provence was built in fits and starts from the 5th century to the 15th century. It is known for its interesting combination of architectural styles and its art masterpiece by Nicolas Fromen, the Burning Bush Triptych.
History of Aix-En-Provence Cathedral
The site on which the Cathedrale St-Sauveur was built has been considered sacred for thousands of years. It first hosted a pre-Roman pagan temple, then a Roman temple, and finally the Christian church that stands today.
Construction of St-Sauveur was regularly interrupted by wars, plagues, and other problems, and as such encompasses a variety of architectural styles. Cathédrale St-Sauveur began with the baptistery in the 4th or 5th century, followed by the cloisters a few hundred years later.
Further structures, including the naves, bell tower and doors, were added over the course of the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods.
During the French Revolution, the decorative panel above the doors was destroyed and remains a blank space. The statues on the face of the church were decapitated and the heads were subsequently lost (the current heads are replacements).
What to See at Aix-En-Provence Cathedral
The Cathédrale St-Sauveur has a double nave, one Gothic and one Romanesque. A 16th-century Gothic portal features elaborately carved doors (opened by a guide on request). The cathedral is flanked on the north by an incomplete tower.
The historical highlight of the interior is a 4th- or 5th-century Merovingian baptistery, with an octagonal basin (eight being the symbolic number of regeneration) surrounded by a circle of marble columns. Some stone on one wall has been removed to reveal a fine Romanesque fresco.
The most valuable work of art in the cathedral is an extraordinary 15th-century triptych by Nicolas Froment. The Triptyque du Buisson Ardent (Burning Bush Triptych) depicts the art patrons King René and Queen Jeanne kneeling on either side of the Virgin, who is poised above a burning bush. To avoid light damage, the triptych is only opened for viewing on Tuesdays from 3 to 4. Also of note is a 16th-century tapestry.
The cathedral is the seat of the bishop of Aix-en-Provence, and as such contains a cathedra, his throne. It is a modern sculpture featuring a wavy bronze panel. According to the cathedral's website, this "evokes God's breathing in of His own life's breath in the form of the Holy Spirit to fill the great sail as it surrounds the movements of the waves of life." The altar, also a modern work of art, rests on three bronze shapes representing the Holy Trinity.
The archbishop's palace adjoins the cathedral on the south side, as does a lovely little Romanesque cloister. Supported by slender columns overlooking a green central garden, the cloister has capitals carved with biblical scenes and symbols. The figures are exceptionally charming - short and softly rounded like cartoons. Among the scenes depicted is a Crucifixion and Christ washing the Disciples' feet. The pillars at the four corners are carved with much more sophisticated depictions of Apostles, topped with the symbols of the Four Evangelists.
Quick Facts on Aix-En-Provence Cathedral
|Names:||Aix-en-Provence Cathedral · Cathédrale St-Sauveur|
|Styles:||Flamboyant Gothic; Romanesque; Baroque style|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||43.531906° N, 5.447448° E|
|Address:||Place des Martyrs de la Résistance|
|Hours:||Daily 9am-noon and 2-6pm|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Aix-En-Provence Cathedral|
- Personal visit (June 21, 2008).
- Saint-Sauveur - official website (French and English)
- Fodor's France
- Frommer's France
- Cathédrale de St.-Sauveur - IgoUgo user review
Map of Aix-En-Provence Cathedral
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