The Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral is the most iconic sighting in the capital of the Auvergne. Tall, dark, and centuries-old, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Clermont-Ferrand, as it is officially named, is a Clermont-Ferrand must-see. Why, do you ask? Well, search no further and see our post below for inside-out details about one of the most famous churches in Auvergne.
The Cathedral is a must-see; the detailed inside-out needlework of the architecture is among one of the top things to do in Clermont-Ferrand.
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Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral: Dark Volcanic Stones
Called the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption de Clermont-Ferrand in French, the church is built of black lava stone from the nearby extinct volcanoes. These dark stones give the Cathedral that distinctive look. Indeed, the material used comes from Volvic, the same as the water of the same name, and is known for its robust characteristics that made it deal for building high structures.
The Needlework of Gothic Cathedrals
France’s most popular Gothic cathedrals include Notre Dame Cathedral, Reims Cathedral, Chartres Cathedral, and Amiens Cathedral. But the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral is another strong contender on that list.
Some of the earliest foundations date back to the 5th-century when Bishop Namatius built the first Cathedral. Destroyed by Pepin the Short (Pepin le Bref) in 760, rebuilt by Bishop Haddebert in the 8th century before being destroyed again by the Normans in 915. A third Romanesque cathedral was built shortly after by Bishop Stephen II (Etienne II) from 946. But it was only in 1248 that Bishop Hugues de la Tour decided to make a new cathedral in Gothic after he visited the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
The work to expand the Roman Catholic church was given to Jean Deschamps, who had experience on other cathedrals in Narbonne and Limoges.
The western façade features two spires, the sun highlighting the delicate facade and stone masonry. The twin spires stand at 315 feet (96 m), making the church the most visible and recognizable element from far.
The height of the Cathedral allows for an equally high nave, which stands at almost 94 ft (29 m) at the transept crossing. These naves and choirs are from the 13-14th centuries, at the peak of the Gothic style. The choir is where Louis IX (famous Saint Louis) married his son, the future Philip III (The Bold or Le Hardi in French) to Isabella of Aragon in 1262. This event shows the importance of the Cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand in the Middle Ages.
The present crypt dates back to the 10th-century church and features a 4th-century white marble sarcophagus.
Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral Stained Glass Windows
In addition to its high spires dwarfing all buildings around thanks to their incredible dimensions, the Cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand is known for its stained-glass windows.
These windows are said to come from the same workshop as those in Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and are considered to be amongst the most beautiful stained windows in France. With over 450 windows styled from the 11th-century Roman art to the 20th-century Contemporain style, merely walking your way under the high naves of the church is a great way to admire these windows illuminated by the sun.
- The older stained glass dates from the Roman era and stands inside the Sainte-Anne Chapel. These windows are thought to originate from the old Cathedral of Stephen II.
- High windows from the 14th to 19th century
- Gothic windows from the 13th century
- Chapel, Scenes in the 19th-century stained-glass window show the wedding of Philip III Le Hardi and Isabelle of Aragon.
- Stained-glass windows from the 20th-century feature scenes from the Apocalypse and Genesis, with details of Adam and Eve.
Clermont-Ferrand Guided Tours
The city of Clermont-Ferrand offers guided tours throughout the town, including the Cathedral. Many of these tours are free or for a small fee. However, most of them are in French only. For English-speaking tours, consider joining one of these city sightseeing tours:
Other Gothic Churches in France
Have you been to Clermont-Ferrand? Did you visit the Cathedral? What did you think?
For other France travel ideas, check out our Quartier St. Martin, Paris Catacombs, and the Père Lachaise Cemetery. Coming up soon: hiking in Mercantour, kayaking the Gorge du Verdon, and visiting Provence lavender fields from the French Riviera.
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