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Path: Photos > Photos > Cathedral Cities > Amiens
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Amiens

 

(vero;2020-Oct-30)

Amiens has suffered quite a lot during the two world wars; 60% of the city centre was destroyed at the end of WWII, with only the district of Saint-Leu on the banks of the river Somme and the cathedral having survived the bombings. The rest of the town has been rebuilt with a focus on widening the streets to ease traffic and is as such not particularly engaging.

But as in Chartres most people who come to Amiens actually come to see the cathedral and rightly so. A fire in 1218 destroyed the original Romanesque cathedral but the edifice was quickly rebuilt between 1220 and 1270 in high gothic style, benefiting from the experience gained in Chartres and Reims and achieving a strong unity of style. After heavy damages to its statuary during the French Revolution an important campaign of restoration started in the 19th century, particularly under the aegis of Viollet-le-Duc.

However, if you have time on your hands we would like to recommend two enjoyable museums: the Musée de Picardie newly renovated and well worth-seeing for its collection of medieval art, paintings and its hall of sculptures and the Musée Jules Verne displaying many interesting memorabilia and background on the life and work of the French author who lived a big part of his life in Amiens. And of course, a visit to Amiens would not be complete without touring the hortillonages, 300 hectares of marshes which have been transformed into fields interlaced with 65km of small canals in the Middle Ages in order to supply Amiens and its surroundings with vegetables.

West front of the cathedral with the three portals and the two bell towers.
View from the south-east showing the south portal, the spire and the chevet with its flying buttresses. Close-up of the west front. The three portals protected each by a pointed porch. The left portal is dedicated to the martyr of Saint Firmin (who died in Amiens), the central one to the Last Judgement and the right one to the Virgin Mary. The gallery of the Kings below the rose of the west front has twenty-two life-size statues of the Kings of France. Tympanum of the portal of Saint-Firmin. Saint Firmin was the first bishop of Amiens and died as a martyr. The upper tier of the tympanum tells the story of the discovery of Saint Firmin's tomb. Saint Sauve has his relics transferred to the cathedral in the midst of winter when a miracle happens: vegetation awakens suddenly and trees start to bloom. In the lower tier the inhabitants of Amiens led by a sweet odour emanating from Saint Firmin's body gather around the tomb to pay their respects. The frieze below the jamb figures of the portal of Saint-Firmin is a representation of the so-called “Calendrier Picard”: the signs of the Zodiac are shown on the upper tier while the associated seasonal activities are found on the lower tier. The photo shows the frieze on the right side of the portal dedicated to Winter and Spring. From left to right: 1) Capricorn and the salting of meat, 2) Aquarius with a two-faced character at a table; the left face old and looking back on the past year, the right face young and symbolising the new year, 3) Pisces with an old man warming himself around a fire, 4) Aries and the start of the field works, here tending the vines, 5) Taurus and falcon hunting, 6) Gemini and the rebirth of vegetation with a man resting under a tree and listening to bird songs. Jamb statues framing the portal of Saint-Firmin. From left to right: Sainte Ulphe, an angel holding a scroll, Saint Acheul (a local martyr), Saint Ache (another local martyr), an angel carrying incense and Saint Honoré (Bishop of Amiens). Tympanum of the central portal depicting the Last Judgement. Below Christ, the righteous go to Paradise on the left, the others to Hell on the right. Jamb statues of the apostles framing the central portal. From left to right: the prophet Daniel, Simon or Jude, Philip, Matthew, Thomas, James the Less and Paul. Statue of the Virgin with Child on the central pillar of the eponymous portal. The base of the statue depicts scenes of Adam and Eve: on the left Eve created from Adam's rib, on the right Adam and Eve and the Serpent. Adam, Eve and the Serpent: as the serpent whispers in Eve's ear she simultaneously eats one of the fruits from the tree and passes another to Adam. Note that the Serpent has the face of a woman. Jamb statues framing the portal of the Virgin Mary. From left to right: the Queen of Saba, King Salomon, King Herod and the three Magi. The portal of the south transept called Portal Saint-Honoré, whose relics are kept in the cathedral. The tympanum depicts scenes of the life of the saint with the lower tier showing the twelve apostles. Funnily enough the statue on the central pillar of the portal is one of the Virgin Mary whereas the one of Saint Honoré has been placed on the central pillar of the north portal. The Golden Virgin or Virgin with Child on the central pillar of the south portal Tympanum of the portal of the south transept depicting the life of Saint Honoré. On the second tier from the bottom the saint is shown holding mass on the left with a miracle on the right: a blind woman is healed by touching the apron covering the altar where a statue of the saint has been placed. Above, the reliquary holding the relics of the saint is being carried with some paralytics trying to touch it in the hope of healing. A crucifixion is shown on top of the reliquary. The choir with the “Grande Gloire” (1768), a monumental Baroque screen of sculpted and gilded wood representing Heaven and crowded with sculptures of cherubs and angels behind the main altar. The cathedral has a labyrinth in the centre of the floor of the nave and this is its centre tile. The labyrinth symbolises the obstacles and twists and turns of the journey toward salvation but also showed that with determination the journey was possible. On certain religious holidays, pilgrims would follow the labyrinth on their knees. The Amiens labyrinth is 240 meters long and was originally put in place in 1288 by the architect René de Cormont. The labyrinth today is an exact copy (made in the 19th century) of the original one. This picture shows the centre of the labyrinth View towards the rose of the north transept. Inside the cathedral. The black and white floor tiles are a distinctive feature of Amiens. Detail of a stained glass window in the side chapel of Sainte Theudosie where the relics of the saint are kept. This window is dating from 1854; the lower part shows from left to right: the city of Amiens, the empress Eugénie and the emperor Napoléon III, the donors of the window. Above is a representation of the Pope in white on the left and of the Bishop of Amiens on the right, both framed by their coats of arms. The upper part is showing scenes of the life of the saint. Rose window of the north transept also called rose of the winds. The lancets below show representations of saints and kings. The side chapel Notre-Dame-Drapière with stained glass windows from 1933 depicting the life of the Virgin. There is a statue of the Virgin with Child on top of the altar. Rose window of the south transept. Overall view of the south choir screen (created between 1490 and 1530) depicting the life of Saint Firmin with two tombs : Bishop Ferry de Beauvoir (died 1473) on the left, and the canon Adrien de Hénencourt (died 1530) on the right. Close-up of the left part of the choir screen dedicated to the life of St Firmin. Detail of the life of St Firmin: the arrest. First part of the north choir screen dedicated to the life of John the Baptist. A relic of the head of Saint John the Baptist is kept in a side chapel on the north side of the choir. From right to left : Sermon of Saint John, Baptism of Jesus, Saint John reveals his mission, Saint John showing the ring of God. Detail of the life of John the Baptist: the sermon. Second part of the north choir screen dedicated to the life of John the Baptist. From right to left: John in front of Herod, the banquet of Herod with the dance of Salome, beheading of John, Herodia's revenge. There is a score of vignettes adorning the lower part of the north choir screen. This one shows the bones of St John being burnt. High relief in the north transept depicting the legend of James the Great and the enchanter Hermogenes. The old district of Saint-Leu along the banks of the river Somme. Colourful houses in Saint-Leu. We found this part of town quite disappointing; the reality behind the colourful facades is not so bright and shiny with many empty yards and derelict buildings mixed with ugly concrete structures. Furthermore, the alleyways were littered with glass shards which we found a bit weird although it was a change from the usual dog turds you often see in French towns :-) We were in Amiens on the European Open House Day and by chance came upon an open-air show featuring puppets typical of the Picardie region, the <a target="_blank"  href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A9s_Cabotans">Chès Cabotans</a>. They had prepared a special play for the occasion telling the history of the cathedral. The puppets speak a French intermingled with Picard dialect and an accent, it was quite entertaining and funny too. The church of Saint-Leu in the eponymous district dates from the 15th century. A garden in the Hortillonages. The hortillonages are 300 hectares of marshes interlaced with 65km of small canals which have been transformed in fields to supply Amiens and surroundings with vegetables since the Middle Ages. They are located on the eastern side of town on the northern bank of the river Somme. Nowadays, there are only about ten vegetable farmers left tending 25 hectares, the rest of the hortillonages has been transformed into private gardens, some of them with a second house on their grounds.

While researching the cathedral, I came across this website, unfortunately only in French but very informative.

Go on to Bourges or go up to Cathedral Cities


$updated from: Cathedral Cities.htxt Mon 03 May 2021 16:08:34 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$