Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral — Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Bourges, is a Roman Catholic cathedral, dedicated to Saint Stephen, located in Bourges, France. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Bourges.

The site occupied by the present cathedral, in what was once the northeastern corner of the Gallo-Roman walled city, has been the site of the city’s main church at least since Carolingian times and probably since the foundation of the bishopric in the 3rd century.

The present Cathedral was built as a replacement for a mid 11th century structure, traces of which survive in the crypt. The date when construction began is unknown, although a document of 1195 recording expenditure on rebuilding works suggests that construction was already underway by that date. The fact that the east end protrudes beyond the line of the Gallo-Roman walls and that royal permission to demolish those walls was only granted in 1183 shows that work on the foundations cannot have started before that date. The main phase of construction is therefore roughly contemporaneous with Chartres Cathedral (begun 1194), some 200 km to the northwest. As with most Early- and High-Gothic cathedrals, the identity of the architect or master-mason is unknown. The choir was in use (though not necessarily complete) by 1214 and the nave was finished by 1255. The building was finally consecrated in 1324. Most of the west façade was finished by 1270, though work on the towers proceeded more slowly, partly due to the unfavourable rock strata beneath the site. Structural problems with the South tower led to the building of the adjoining buttress tower in the mid-14th century. The North tower was completed around the end of the 15th century but collapsed in 1506, destroying the Northern portion of the facade in the process. The North tower and its portal were subsequently rebuilt in a more contemporary style. Important figures in the life of the cathedral during the 13th century include William of Donjeon who was Archbishop from 1200 until his death in 1209 (and was canonised by the Pope in 1218 as St William of Bourges) as well as his grandson, Philip Berruyer (archbishop 1236-61), who oversaw the later stages of construction. Following the destruction of much of the Ducal Palace and its chapel during the revolution, the tomb effigy of Duke Jean de Berry was relocated to the Cathedral’s crypt, along with some stained glass panels showing standing prophets, which were designed for the chapel by André Beauneveu. Generally the cathedral suffered far less than some of its peers during the French Wars of Religion and in the Revolution. Its location meant it was also relatively safe from the ravages of both World Wars. The cathedral was added to the list of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1992.

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