The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth (Cathedral of Our Lady of Nazareth) in the Provencal town of Vaison-la-Romaine dates from the 11th and 12th centuries. Although somewhat austere, it has many details of interest, including a long mystical inscription and a lovely cloister.
History of Vaison-La-Romaine Cathedral
Christianity has been practiced in Vaison-la-Romaine since at least the late 3rd century and the Christian community had a bishop by 314, when Daphnus was recorded attending the Council of Arles.
The cathedral of Vaison was built on the ruins of a Roman temple, the remains of which can be seen outside the chevet. More than one church has existed on this site; a 6th-century basilica was destroyed by Frankish invaders.
The present building dates primarily from the 11th and 12th centuries. After a dispute with the Count of Toulouse in the late 12th century, the medieval city of Vaison was mostly abandoned for the new town. Today, little remains of the extensive medieval city except for the cathedral.
What to See at Vaison-La-Romaine Cathedral
The exterior is austere but nevertheless a beautiful sight, thanks to the lovely landscaped garden with Mediterranean trees that surrounds the cathedral. The gable of the west facade has some interesting architectural details, including a triangle surrounding a sun.
At the east end is a rectangular apse (though semicircular inside) flanked by two round apsidal chapels. Remains of a Roman temple have been excavated next to the apse. A stout and square bell tower rises at the northeast corner of the building.
The interior consists of a wide nave with narrow sides, all barrel-vaulted. The nave has three wide bays, supported by great pillars on which a variety of masons' marks can be seen. There is no transept, but the crossing area is covered by an octagonal cupola with sculptures of the Four Evangelists.
The apse is the most interesting aspect of the interior. Behind a simple stone altar, on a lower level than the nave, is the medieval bishop's throne and three semicircular benches for the canons. In front of the throne is an old sarcophagus containing the relics of St. Quenin (d. 578). The apse also contains several tomb niches of various styles and some reliquaries and statues.
The cloister of Vaison-la-Romaine's cathedral, dating primarily from the mid-12th century, is a peaceful space with a lush central garden. The canons' buildings, such as the refectory and dormitory, have disappeared and many of the capitals were restored in the 19th century, but the cloister retains its medieval appearance and atmosphere. Most of the capitals are carved with foliage and vines, but some have charming creatures and human faces.
From the cloister, there is an excellent view of the north side of the cathedral, which is inscribed with this mystical exhortation in Latin:
The cloister contains a small lapidary museum that displays inscriptions and artifacts dating back to the Early Christian era.
Quick Facts on Vaison-La-Romaine Cathedral
|Names:||Cathedrale de Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth · Notre-Dame de Vaison-la-Romaine · Vaison-la-Romaine Cathedral|
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (of Nazareth)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||44.242828° N, 5.067937° E|
|Address:||Avenue Joseph Mazen|
|Hours:||Apr-May: 10am-12:30pm, 2-5:45pm|
Jun-Aug: 9am-12:30pm, 2-6:45pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near Vaison-La-Romaine Cathedral|
- Personal visit (June 17, 2008).
- Paul Stirton, Blue Guide Provence and the Cote D'Azur, 2nd ed. (London: A&C Black Publishers Limited, 2003), 144.
- Informational sign at the Chapelle St-Quenin.
- Notre Dame de Nazareth - Vaison-la-Romaine.com
- Les Chemins de la Provence Romane, 66-67.
Map of Vaison-La-Romaine Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of Vaison-La-Romaine 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.