Gothic Cathedrals of France and Their Treasures

By Marcel Aubert | Go to book overview
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The Expansion of the Art of the Great Cathedrals

The art of the master craftsmen of the Royal Domain, the art of the great cathedrals of northern France, spread rapidly through the whole of France. We find it again in some of the most beautiful cathedrals built at the end of the thirteenth century and in the fourteenth not only in Champagne and Burgundy where Gothic art remained very closely related to that of the Ile-de-France, but also in some central and southern towns where the bishops were in close touch with the monarchy, and where architects from the Ile-de-France and from the large building-yards of the north introduced the new style.


Nevers Cathedral was reconstructed after the fire of 1212, starting with the five bays of the nave next to the western apse of the cathedral of 1058. They were completed in 1221 at the death of Bishop Guillaume de Saint-Lazare. Piers with vaulting shafts supported the main arches. There was a trefoiled triforium with 'colonnettes' supported by atlantes and clerestory windows with a wall passage. Of the last four bays and the eastern choir with its ambulatory and radiating chapels, the three central chapels date from the end of the thirteenth century and the rest from between 1308 and the consecration on 27 March 1332. The construction here is lighter and more elegant, and a glazed triforium replaces the blind triforium of the western bays. In the fifteenth century, two bell-towers were erected, together with the first bays of the aisles, and then chapels were placed between the abutments.


Auxerre Cathedral is even more skilfully constructed. The choir, erected on an eleventh-century crypt decorated with wonderful paintings, goes back to the first third of the thirteenth century. Work began in 1215, In 1217 the first bay of the old Romanesque choir was demolished, resulting in the collapse of the two towers flanking it. But work proceeded fairly slowly. The new choir with main arches springing from columns, high triforium supporting a wall passage level with the sills of the clerestory windows, is surrounded by an ambulatory where every bay has a vault with six intersecting ribs. A single central chapel


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