Auxerre Cathedral

The Cathedral Saint -Etienne in Auxerre in the Yonne department in Burgundy is a masterpiece of Burgundian Gothic. Since 1823 she is co-cathedral of the Archdiocese of Sens- Auxerre.

History and specifications


The cathedral is located in the center of the old town on a hill overlooking the Yonne. Saint- Étienne was started in 1215, or about the same time as Reims and Amiens, but then experienced several phases of construction. The façade dates from the late 13th century, the north tower was built in the 16th century. This display area shows the time of the late Gothic strong tendency to pull out all the free surfaces with aufgeblendetem tracery.

It is crucial that the Burgundian cathedral already on the dimension of the arcade zone forth not increase those looking like the northern French cathedrals. The Burgundian sacral seeks rather a human dimensions familiar attitude. The principle of Doppelschaligkeit has been performed here especially consistent. Behind the services of the walkway goes through, so that the supporting system of the building is set as a separate layer in front of the room beyond layer and the subsequent windows surface. The clerestory walkway goes back to the wall systems of the three great cathedrals of the upper Rhônetales, Lausanne, Geneva and Lyon, in their Sheds asserted itself the Gothic shortly before 1200.

In the choir, we find the same applied more consistently. Here tendencies emerge, which would amount to let the idea of ​​active upwardly mobile scaffolding as a separate system independent of the outside wall exist for itself, as if architectural idea and divorced from any structural function, ie as a pure work of art.

The previous buildings

Today's Gothic cathedral is the fifth building at this location. Instead of the first church built Bishop Amâtre (at 386-418 ) a new, larger building. Bishop Desiderius ( 603-621 ) added that church in an apse, which was decorated with a gold background mosaic along the lines of that of Syagrius in Autun. This building was completely destroyed at the end of the 9th century by fire. The third building was erected under the bishop Heri Fried ( 887-909 ). He also went in 1023 under by a fire, as well as a large part of the city. Bishop Hugh of Chalon built after a Romanesque cathedral, which was consecrated in 1057. The choir, which was enclosed by two flanking towers, leaning on the still existing crypt, which compensates for the down to the river sloping terrain.

The Gothic building

The construction of the present cathedral began in 1215 under Bishop Guillaume of Seignelay. 1235 was after the episcopate of Henri de Villeneueve ( 1220-1234 ) of the main building of the choir completed and you could put the stained glass windows of the choir until 1250. Around this time they began in the west with the construction of the façade, but only slowly progressed. At the end of the 13th century consolidation works were necessary in the choir. By 1300 they went to the construction of the southern transept arm, which the church patron St. Stephen sculptures dedicated portal can be dated to 1320. The demolition of the old Romanesque nave, which had to give the Gothic building, happened at the beginning of the 14th century. The long construction took place from about 1320-1350, and from 1345-55 they realized the side chapels of the aisles. But the difficulties of the age, especially the Hundred Years War delayed the completion of the Südseitenschiffs to 1378th The glazing of the nave happened 1390-1410. In 1403, the cathedral chapter instructed the carpenter Odon Gauthier with the doors of the west facade. To the north transept and the towers were not started at the beginning of the 15th century. First, we took the northern transept in attack whose figure decoration is dedicated from the period around 1415 the saints of the church of Auxerre, St Germanus, St. Pelerinus and St. Amâtre. But only under Bishop Jean III. Baillet (1477-1513) was completed in the Nordquerarm. 1478 the vaulting of the nave, the nave was held in 1500 and finally started to work with the North Tower. The second floor was completed in 1525 under Bishop Francois I de Dinteville, his nephew Francois II was able to complete the tower in 1543. 1528 North transept rose was glazed by Master Michel Germain, 1550 was glazing the Südquerhausrose and the west facade by Guillaume Cornwall. The south tower was never completed. 1567 the Huguenots plundered the city and the cathedral, which necessitated repairs especially in the chorus glazing. 1764 created by Bishop Francois I de Dinteville Renaissance rood screen was demolished and replaced by a choir screen. The French Revolution caused countless damage to the building and its interiors. The gold work is a melted, the church was converted into a Temple of Reason, and the important statue of the suffering Stephen at the high altar only escaped destruction because you made ​​a suffering Marat in the bath of her. In 1840 Prosper Mérimée the cathedral under a preservation order. Extensive restoration work was carried out throughout the 19th century. Eugène Viollet -le- Duc restored the crypt of 1844-1848, the architect Pièplu undertook in 1866 the repair of the main building. Since 2001, a new restoration campaign in motion.


The crypt of St- Étienne still originates from the previous building dating from around 1030. Due to the sloping terrain, it has to Yonne, despite their low ground level exterior windows. Through their layout with main room, handling and vertices chapel it is an important example of the development of the crypt as design. The clear architectural structure by wall templates and groin vault with belt and diaphragm arches makes it also a major work of early Romanesque architecture. The crypt has important frescoes in the chapel apex. A very unusual fresco dates from the middle of the 12th century: "Christ on a white horse ", surrounded by four angels, also on horseback. The formal basis of this scene is a large jeweled cross, which determines the entire image area. The thematic idea of ​​"Angel tab" goes back ultimately to stories from the Apocalypse of John, where such creatures are portrayed. But the image of the " emperor on horseback " It may have played a role that was very popular at that time and can be transferred here on Christ. Such a type of representation with Christ as a rider on a horse - and not on a donkey - is in any case extremely rare. On the Apsiskalotte the chapel there is another mural, a Maiestas Domini from the late 13th century.


The cathedral treasury contains several medieval illuminated manuscripts, ivories, gold artefacts and a collection of reliquaries with Limoges enamel.


From 1953 to 1960 Jacques Berthier was the organist of the Cathedral. Berthier formed, along with brother Robert Giscard, in 1974 the genre "Songs of Taizé ."

In the cathedral of Auxerre is an organ of the workshop Oberthur. It was built in 1986 and has 47 speaking stops on four manuals and pedal.

  • External length 100m
  • Facade width 40m
  • Height 68m of the North Tower
  • Inside length 98m
  • Vault height in the chorus 30m
  • Vault height aisles 13m
  • Width of the nave in the choir: 12m