457. Amiens Cathedral.
The High Gothic style defined at Chartres reaches
its climax a generation later in the interior of Amiens Cathedral (figs.
458). Breathtaking height becomes
the dominant aim, both technically and aesthetically (see fig.
459). The relatively swift
progression toward verticality in French Gothic cathedral architecture
is clearly seen in figure 461,
while figure 462
shows how both height and large expanses of window were
achieved. At Amiens, skeletal construction is carried to its most
precarious limits. The inner logic of the system forcefully asserts
itself in the shape of the vaults, taut and thin as membranes, and in the expanded window area,
which now includes the triforium so that the entire wall above the nave
arcade becomes a clerestory (fig. 458).
Cathedral. Choir and its altar, under the East window
Amiens Cathedral, plan
Transept and north stained glass
459. Transverse section, Amiens
Cathedral (after Acland)
457. Choir vault, Amiens Cathedral.
Tympanum of central west portal: Christ in Majesty presides over the
Day of Judgement,
supported by an array of saints.
Amiens Cathedral, also called Notre-Dame d’Amiens, or the
Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Amiens, Gothic cathedral located
in the historic city of Amiens, France, in the Somme River
valley north of Paris. It is the largest of the three great
Gothic cathedrals built in France during the 13th century,
and it remains the largest in France. It has an exterior
length of 476 feet (145 metres)—23 feet (7 metres) longer
than Reims Cathedral and 49 feet (15 metres) longer than
Chartres Cathedral—with an interior length of 438 feet
(133.5 metres). The soaring nave reaches an elevation of 139
feet (42.3 metres) at the apex of the vault, yet it is only
48 feet (14.6 metres) wide. This 3:1 ratio, made possible by
the sophisticated cantilevering of the Rayonnant-style
construction, gives the nave a greater verticality and
elegance than other cathedrals of the period. The lightness
and airiness of the interior is increased by the 66-foot
(20-metre) height of the flanking aisles and the open
arcades and large windows of the triforium and clerestory.
The cathedral’s elaborately decorated exterior has its
fullest expression in the double-towered west facade, which
is dominated by three deep-set arched portals and a richly
carved gallery below the immense rose window (diameter 43
feet [13 metres]).
Amiens Cathedral was commissioned by
Bishop Evrard de Fouilloy to replace a smaller church that
had burned down in 1218. Construction of the nave began in
1220 under the direction of the architect Robert de
Luzarches. The nave and western facade were completed by
1236, and most of the main construction was finished about
1270. Many later additions took place, including the
installation of the grand organ in 1549 and the erection of
a 367-foot (112-metre) spire during the same century;
extensive restoration work was undertaken by the French
architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th
The cathedral at Amiens was the site of
several noteworthy events, including the marriage of Charles
VI to Isabella of Bavaria in 1385. Despite heavy fighting
around Amiens during World Wars I and II, the cathedral
escaped serious damage. It was designated a UNESCO World
Heritage site in 1981.
460. West facade, Reims Cathedral,
makes an instructive contrast with the west facade of
Notre-Dame in Paris, even though its basic design was conceived only
about 30 years later. Many
elements are common to both (as the Coronation Cathedral of the kings of
France, Reims was closely linked to Paris), but in the younger structure
they have been reshaped into a very different ensemble. The portals,
instead of being recessed, are projected forward as gabled porches, with
windows in place of tympanums above the doorways.
461. Comparison of nave elevations
in same scale.
1) Notre-Dame, Paris; 2) Chartres Cathedral; 3) Reims Cathedral; 4) Amiens Cathedral
The same emphasis on vertically and translucency can
be traced in the development of the High Gothic facade. The most famous
of these, at Reims Cathedral
The gallery of royal
statues, which in Paris forms an incisive horizontal band between the
first and second stories, has been raised until it merges with the
third-story arcade. Every detail except the rose window has become
taller and narrower than before. A multitude of pinnacles further accentuates the restless upward-pointing movement. The sculptural
decoration, by far the most lavish of its kind (see figs.
490), no longer remains in clearly marked-off
zones. It has now spread to so many hitherto unaccustomed perches, not
only on the facade but on the flanks as well, that the exterior of the
cathedral begins to look like a dovecote for statues.
West facade, Reims Cathedral
West facade, Reims Cathedral
Reims Cathedral. Exterior view of the chevet
Reims Cathedral, also called the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at
Reims, cathedral located in the city of Reims, France, on
the Vesle River east-northeast of Paris. Reims was the site
of 25 coronations of the kings of France, from Louis VIII in
1223 to Charles X in 1825, including the crowning of Charles
VII in 1429 in the presence of Joan of Arc. The cathedral,
which was begun in 1211 under the auspices of Archbishop
Aubry de Humbert and designer Jean d’Orbais, was modeled on
Chartres Cathedral (begun about 1194) and was intended to
replace an earlier church destroyed by fire in 1210. The
main construction was overseen by four different architects
and lasted some 80 years; expansions and decorative work
continued on the church for centuries.
Reims Cathedral incorporated several new
architectural techniques, notably bar tracery. It has a
total finished length of 489 feet (149.2 metres)—about 26
feet (8 metres) longer than Chartres—with an interior length
of 455 feet (138.7 metres) and a nave reaching 377 feet (115
metres). The twin towers in the west facade have a height of
266 feet (81 metres). The chevet (eastern end), with its
five relatively large chapels, is nearly the same width as
the transept (201 feet [61.3 metres]), giving the cathedral
an unusually compact, unified appearance. This unity is
emphasized by the use of nearly identical window types in
the aisle and clerestory stories, as well as the
complementary rose windows in the west facade and central
portal and those in the transepts’ facades. Reims is richly
decorated with elegant masonry sculpture (particularly the
exterior) and exceptional stained-glass windows, making it
one of the artistic masterpieces of the French High Gothic
The cathedral’s historic site, which was
added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1991, includes
the former Abbey of Saint-Rémi (begun about 1170 and
containing the remains of the 5th–6th century archbishop St.
Remigius) and the archiepiscopal Tau Palace (reconstructed
in the 17th century). Restoration was undertaken in the 20th
century after the cathedral was seriously damaged by
shelling during World War I.