Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Auxerre - the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne

Lillian :  We also took a day-trip to Auxerre last spring when we were visiting Bourgogne.
Audrey :  Auxerre was easier to get to than Vézelay - we took the train.
View from the train - somewhere between Avallon & Auxerre
Auxerre's train station
Lillian :   Auxerre is a major town - and whereas Avallon & Vézelay are perched on top of hills, Auxerre is in a valley and sits beside the Yonne River.
Audrey :   But just like those other towns, Auxerre has a famous church - the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne.  This Cathedral is very decorated compared to the other ones - though only one of its towers was built.
Lillian :  This more ornamental style gets called Gothic, later than the Romanesque Basilica in Vézelay.  Although most of the Cathedral was built in the early 1200s, this western facade wasn't finished until the 1500s. 
Audrey :  Well, it still isn't really finished - they forgot about that other tower!  
Though that one they did build is very nice - did you notice how the falls of the wisteria flowers echoed the decoration on the tower?
Lillian :  The three doorways on the Western side have wonderful Tympanum.  
This is right-hand side as you are facing the Cathedral and probably completed close to 1240.   The central part tells the story of David and Bathsheba and the tympanum portrays the story of John the Baptist. 
The South Portal
Audrey :   The Main doorway has even more people and they have fancy little platforms to stand on.
The Main Portal

Lillian :   This work was done later - about 1400.  The Last Judgment is shown in the centre - on those little platforms are scenes from the lives of the apostles.  Amazing delicate filigree carving.
Here is a close up

Audrey :  Unfortunately all the people down low and within reach, had been beheaded - the poor things! 

Audrey :  The door itself is quite gorgeous with Fleur de Lis carved and painted.
   Lillian :  Let's walk around to the Northern side - round that tower
And on this side - in the middle - the north transept and another wonderful tympanum and lots of filigree carving. This dates from the end of the 1400s.

Audrey :   So, if I have this correctly - the Gothic style has lots of fancy, filigree carving, and pointy arches and lots of gargoyles.  This Cathedral has wonderful gargoyles.

Two Faced Gargoyle


Lillian :  Yes, and they function as waterspouts - which was originally the purpose of gargoyles. 

A monk with an animal's face?
Audrey :  I thought they were there to make us laugh!
Lillian :   I think they are meant to be scary - here is a Wikipedia article
Audrey : Well, that man with the lizardy skin doesn't look happy and he might club you but the dragon is lovely - look how he is sitting on the corner, like he'll fly off any minute.

And these Gargoyles aren't scary at all.

Smiling Lion sheltering a child

A GoatGoyle

Audrey :  This one is clever - we'll show it turned round - the water pours from the jug on his shoulder and he has a sweet little doggy.

Lillian :  This is the apse or chevet - it is at the Eastern end which is the tradition.  Some of that was built in the first half of the thirteenth century - you can also see the buttresses.

And one last photo of the exterior of the Cathédrale Saint-Étienne d'Auxerre with roofs and cherry blossom, well it was spring time.

Audrey : Next post we'll show you photos of the inside of this Cathedral - it has some splendid stained glass windows.

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