Bourges Cathedral, Loire Valley
Discover Bourges Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges is one of the most important and impressive gothic cathedrals in France, an importance recognised by its inclusion as a listed National Monument in France.
Note: Bourges is very unusual in having two listed National Monuments, an indication of its historic importance. The other is the Palais Jacques-Coeur.
History of Bourges Cathedral
As the end of the 12th century approached and the city of Bourges grew in importance, it was decided to build a cathedral that would be as grand as any in France, to replace the older, more modest roman style cathedral that previously stood here.
Work began at the rear of the church with the crypt and choir and progressed towards the front. By 1230 the nave and main facade were completed. One unusual architectural characteristic of Bourges cathedral is that there is no transept: that is, the interior of the cathedral is one long nave* but doesn't include the sides that usually represent the horizontal part of the cross shape.
*Actually there are five naves including the two one each side of the main nave, hence the five entrances on the western facade.
This was the time that the cathar movement was growing in southern France, and the cathedral in Bourges deliberately incorporated symbols and icons that were opposed to this cathar movement.
Visiting Bourges Cathedral
To give some idea of the size of the cathedral, it covers a surface area of 6000 square metres (about the same as 40 family houses) and the nave is 37 metres tall, while the towers reach 58 metres and 66 metres.
Particular highlights in the cathedral include:
- the intricate stonework around the facade and five entrances of the western facade of the cathedral
- the stained glass windows, added during the period from the 13th century to the 16th century, are very rare and colourful and relate many stories from the Bible
- the north tower, with almost 400 steps to climb to reach the impressive views across the rooftops of Bourges from the top. The substantial structure next to the south tower was added in the 13th century when it was thought that the tower was on the verge of collapse.
- the crypt with the 13th century rood screen. Even here in the crypt you can see lovely gothic style stonework, as well as the tombs of the archbishops of Bourges and the Duke of Berry.
- the 15th century fresco in the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist
- the astronomical clock in Bourges cathedral dates from the 15th century and is the oldest example of this type of clock in France.
France This Way comment: this is one of the most interesting cathedrals we have seen in France. The only problem? Houses have been built in front of the cathedral that make it difficult to see the whole facade from the front. Hence the photos you see are usually taken in the gardens from the side of the cathedral...
Map of Bourges Cathedral and places to visit
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Address: Bourges, Cher, Loire Valley, 18000, France || GPS: latitude 47.08222, longitude 2.39917
Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Les Prés Fichaux: remarkable garden
- Palace Jacques Coeur: national monument
- Bourges: secteur sauvegarde
- Eglise de Saint Martin (Plaimpied-Givaudins): religious monument (10km)
- Mehun-sur-Yevre: recommended detour (15km)
- Eglise de Saint André (Jussy-Champagne): religious monument (21km)
- St Aignan de Brinay (Brinay): religious monument (23km)
- Collegiale Saint Etienne (Dun-sur-Auron): religious monument (26km)
- Eglise de Saint Germain (Blet): religious monument (33km)