Vienne Cathedral | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Vienne Cathedral

Vienne, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020

About Vienne Cathedral

Vienne Cathedral is a medieval Roman Catholic church in the city of Vienne, France.

Vienne Cathedral history

Vienne Cathedral (Cathedrale de Vienne) was constructed over a long period, starting in the 11th century and lasting up to the 16th. Built over such a stretch of time, Vienne Cathedral benefits from an eclectic range of styles, mostly Gothic and Romanesque. Even after the 16th century, the cathedral suffered several damaging events and underwent several restorations, including in the 19th century.

Yet, the Vienne Cathedral of today is not the first to be built. It is thought that the earliest cathedral in Vienne may have been there as early as the 4th century. In the 8th century, Vienne became home to some of the relics of Saint Maurice and, when Pope Innocent IV consecrated the current Vienne Cathedral on 20 April 1251, it was dedicated to this saint. As such, its official name is St. Maurice Cathedral (Cathedrale Saint-Maurice de Vienne).

In the wake of the French Revolution, the Vienne archdiocese was dissolved and the former cathedral became a plain parish church, while the surrounding premises temporarily served as barns or barracks and eventually were demolished.

Vienne Cathedral today

The present-day building is a basilica, with three aisles and an apse, but no ambulatory or transepts. The most striking portion is the west front, which rises majestically from a terrace overhanging the Rhône. However, the sculptural decoration was badly damaged by plundering Huguenot forces under Baron François de Beaumont in 1562, during the French Wars of Religion.

Inside there is a very long and tall nave with arcades of fluted pillars separating nave and side aisles. The ones at the east end of the nave are the oldest with simple rounder topped arches and carved capitals. There is a lovely carving of a cleric by the west door. Side aisles are narrow with altars at the east end. The remains of wall paintings can be seen on parts of the vaulted ceilings.

There are more wall paintings in a side chapel in the south aisle and a lovely carving of St Peter and St Paul on the east wall. The apse is C13th with tall lancet windows and blind arcading around the walls. Above are larger clerestory windows. There is a small stone wall mounted pulpit. The walls between the pillars are hung with tapestries.

Getting to Vienne Cathedral

The Vienne Cathedral or Cathedrale Saint-Maurice lies on the west bank of the Rhône in the small town of Vienne. Vienne lies roughly 35 kilometres south of Lyon which is roughly a 45 minute drive down the A7 from Lyon’s city centre. The site’s address is Place St-Paul, 38200 Vienne France.

There is parking available nearby.

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