The Cathedral of Our Lady of Amiens (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens), or simply Amiens Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral and seat of the Bishop of Amiens (currently Jean-Luc Bouilleret). It is situated on a slight ridge overlooking the River Somme in the administrative capital of the Picardy region of France, some 120 km north of Paris.
The cathedral is the tallest complete cathedral in France, its stone-vaulted nave reaching a height of 42.30 metres (138.8 ft) (surpassed only by the incomplete Beauvais Cathedral). It also has the greatest interior volume of any French cathedral, estimated at 200,000 cubic metres (260,000 cu yd).
The cathedral was built between 1220 and c.1270 and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. Although it has lost most of its original stained glass, Amiens Cathedral is renowned for the quality and quantity of early 13th century Gothic sculpture in the main west facade and the south transept portal, and a large quantity of polychrome sculpture from later periods inside the building.
The lack of documentation concerning the construction of the Gothic cathedral may be in part the result of fires that destroyed the chapter archives in 1218 and again in 1258—a fire that damaged the cathedral itself. Bishop Evrard de Fouilly initiated work on the cathedral in 1220.
Robert de Luzarches was the architect until 1228, and was followed by Thomas de Cormont until 1258. His son, Renaud de Cormont, acted as the architect until 1288. The chronicle of Corbie gives a completion date for the cathedral of 1266. Finishing works continued, however. Its floors are covered with a number of designs, such as the bent cross (to symbolize Jesus' triumph over death).
The west front of the cathedral, (illustration, right) built in a single campaign, 1220–36, shows an unusual degree of artistic unity: its lower tier with three vast deep porches is capped with the gallery of twenty-two over lifesize kings, which stretches across the entire façade beneath the rose window.
Above the rose window there is an open arcade, the galerie des sonneurs. Flanking the nave, the two towers were built without close regard to the former design, the south tower being finished in 1366, the north one, reaching higher, in 1406.
Amiens cathedral contains the largest medieval interior in Western Europe, supported by 126 pillars. Both the nave and the chancel are vast but extremely light, with considerable amounts of stained glass surviving, despite the depredations of war. The ambulatory surrounding the choir is richly decorated with polychrome sculpture and flanked by numerous chapels. One of the most sumptuous is the Drapers' chapel.
In Popular Culture
- In the book Mr Standfast, John Buchan has his character Richard Hannay describe the cathedral as being "the noblest church that the hand of man ever built only for God."
- The cathedral was featured in the video game Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. In the game it first appeared as a chapel in the final year of Charlemagne's reign; the next period it was appeared in was during the height of the Spanish Inquisition. Lastly, it was used as an hospital for injured soldiers during World War One. Though the Amiens Cathedral was renamed Oublie Cathedral.
- The cathedral was featured in an episode of the PBS science show NOVA as an example of design flaws that now threaten the structural integrity of Gothic cathedrals. In this case improperly installed flying buttresses have resulted in the main supports bowing out over time.
- The 1979 album Winter Songs by Art Bears comprises fourteen short songs composed by Fred Frith around texts by Chris Cutler that were based on carvings on the dado of the Cathedral's west facade.