Lisieux – Saint-Pierre Cathedral
Lisieux is a very religious city with, for a small city, both an enormous basilica AND a big cathedral. Lisieux was the home to three saints, which might explain the presence of so many big religious buildings and institutions (like the Carmel monastery).
But the Saint-Pierre cathedral is not exactly an example for other cathedrals (in sharp contrast with the city’s basilica). One word would sum it up; drab. It measures 110 meters in length with the tallest part rising 72 meters above the ground.
The cathedral is built against the courthouse and has a large square facing it. But there is a lot of car & bus traffic passing in front of it going to the courthouse (and post office). It doesn’t make the front of the cathedral very photogenic.
On the side of the cathedral, houses have been built almost against the church. This gives way to very narrow “alleyways” in between the houses and the cathedral.
The construction of the cathedral started in 1170 and was “finished” (though cathedrals are never totally finished) in 1230. Allegedly there was already a cathedral in its place dating back to the year 538, but it is assumed that it was destroyed by the Vikings.
But the cathedral was lucky. It is one of the very few buildings in Lisieux that escape the bombardments towards the end of World War II.There was some damage, but it was negligible.
Inside the cathedral
Once inside, the feeling of a sober, even drab, cathedral is reinforced. The whole is pretty spartan and dark.
Right at the side entrance, next to the transept, is a statue with no head. It is the bishop Jean de Samois who died 1302. Not exactly a notable or known church official.
The nave is, like the cathedral itself, narrow and long. With the columns on the side, it is impossible for seating on the side since you’ll not be able to see much of the service.
The sides are impressive for the era it was built in. The arches you see in the middle are false: there is no walking space there.
The organ itself is also not much to write home about (in contrast with for example the organ of the Le Havre Notre-Dame cathedral – a gift from Cardinal Richelieu – click here to read more about that organ). There is another organ towards the middle of the cathedral.
There are some 14 chapels inside the cathedral, most of them are quite dark. But a few were well done, using light to highlight specific statues.
Above is the Notre-Dame du Carmel chapel with an 18th century painting, a 19th century confessional booth and stained glass from 1948. Notice how they highlight the statue…
Here is another example of the use of light inside the chapels.
The Notre-Dame de Lourdes chapel contains the funeral slab of Jean le Neveu, the dean of the Lisieux chapter in the 13th century.
Last example of spotlights used inside some of the chapels.
At the far end of the cathedral you will find this big chapel, the Chapel of the Virgin, built in 1435. The Bishop and main order giver at the time they built this chapel was Bishop Pierre Cauchon. His sarcophagus was found here in 1931, and was subsequently placed to the left, at the end of the chapel.
This is the South transept which hosts the headless statue you can see in the photo earlier on.
And this is the North transept of the cathedral.
In between you’ll find his small altar.
This is also where you find the 2nd organ.
There are two well lit statues in front of the main altar…
….Two angles on both sides.
And this is the main altar, with both angels.
A few old pews remain, but they are more for decoration. Seating is now in standard benches and chairs.
And the last photo, the pillars of the cathedral.
The Saint-Pierre cathedral is not one that you will go out of your way to visit (unlike the Amiens cathedral). But if you are visiting Lisieux, particularly the wonderful basilica, you can drop in for a few moments.
- The Basilica of Saint Therese in Lisieux is one of those buildings that is definitely worth a detour, even one of hundreds of kilometres. It is France's second most visited pilgrimage site (after Lourdes), with 2 million visitors per year. It could be qualified in one word: imposing! The Basilica is…