Clermont Cathedral (La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption, Clermont-Ferrand) is a striking Gothic edifice built of black lava stone in the 13th and 14th centuries. It contains beautiful medieval stained glass windows, many Gothic wall paintings, and a 10th-century crypt.
History of Clermont Cathedral
Christianity arrived in Clermont in the beginning of the 4th century under the leadership of the city's first bishop, Saint Austremoine (Stremonius in Latin). The first cathedral was built on the present site around 450 under Bishop Narnatius. It was dedicated to Saints Vitalis and Agricola, martyrs of Bologna whose relics the bishop had obtained.
Fortunately, Gregory of Tours recorded a description of this cathedral, which was rich indeed: a five-aisled basilica, 43.5 meters long, with 70 columns and eight portals. Its walls were decorated with marble. Two beautiful sarcophagi survive from this early period and can be seen in the crypt.
The first Clermont Cathedral apparently lasted for centuries. Its destruction is not recorded in any existing documents, but it is possible that the fire set by Pepin the Short in the city in 760 caused its demise.
Around 946, the Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, who was also the Abbot of Conques, dedicated a new Romanesque cathedral to the Virgin Mary. Designed by an architect named Adelelmus, the cathedral was 62 meters long. It had three aisles, a transept with absidoles in its east wall, and a choir with an ambulatory, four radiating chapels and a crypt beneath (which still survives).
It is almost certainly in this cathedral that Pope Urban II preached the First Crusade in 1095, at the Council of Clermont. It is said his large audience responded with the shout Deus volt ("God wills it!"), which became the rallying cry of the Crusaders.
Construction on the present cathedral began in 1246 under Bishop Hughes de la Tour, a friend of King Saint Louis. The old Romanesque cathedral was not immediately destroyed, but gradually replaced by the Gothic edifice so that services could continue.
Designed by architect Jean Deschamps, the new Clermont Cathedral was modeled after the great Gothic cathedrals of northern France. The bishop died in 1249, but construction continued under his successor and the cathedral's Chapter. The choir was completed in 1273 and the transept was done by the architect's death in 1295.
The Gothic renovation never made it to the west front, which remained Romanesque until it was replaced with a neo-Gothic facade by Viollet-le-Duc in 1865.
What to See at Clermont Cathedral
The present incarnation of Clermont Cathedral is built of black lava stone in the High Gothic style. It consists of a tall, narrow nave with large side chapels, a short transept with rose windows at each end, and a large choir with an ambulatory and radiating chapels.
The highlight of the interior are the ambulatory chapels around the choir, which contain some of the finest stained glass windows in the cathedral as well as many Gothic frescoes. The most notable are as follows (in order from north/left to south/right):
The crypt under the choir dates from the 10th century and is the only survivor from the earlier Romanesque cathedral. It contains two beautiful sarcophagi from Early Christian Clermont: one from the 4th century and the other from the 5th or 6th. Also here are frescoes dating from the 13th century but painted very much in the Romanesque style, which depict scenes from the birth and public ministry of Christ.
Quick Facts on Clermont Cathedral
|Names:||Clermont Cathedral · Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral · La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption|
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (Assumption)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||45.778686° N, 3.085737° E|
|Hours:||Mon-Fri 7:30am-noon, 2-6pm|
Sat-Sun 9:30am-noon, 3-7:30pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near Clermont Cathedral|
- Personal visit (June 13, 2008).
- Informational signs in the cathedral (French).
- La cathédrale de Clermont - official website
- Notre-Dame de l'Assomption - Planetware
- Photos of Clermont Cathedral - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Clermont Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of Clermont Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.