Bordeaux Cathedral visitor guide

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The Cathedral of Saint Andrew is one of three important churches in Bordeaux along with the Basilica of Saint Severinus and the Basilica of Saint Michael.

The three form part of the UNESCO World Heritage "routes of Santiago de Compostela in France"

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France This Way review: Bordeaux Cathedral is a Gothic cathedral with attractive 19th century stained glass windows and a distinctive choir with carved misericordes.

Bordeaux cathedral

Bordeaux cathedral originates from the Romanesque church of Saint Andrew which was built in the 11th century. It gradually gained influence over its main rival, the church of Saint Severinus which had the relics of companions of Saint John to attract pilgrims.

In 1137 thirteen year old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII in Saint Andrew's cathedral. Louis's father died just months later and she became the Queen of France.

Only a wall in the Nave remains of the original Romanesque church but the current Gothic cathedral was constructed over the 14 and 15th centuries. A seperate bell tower, the Pey-Berland tower, was also built over this period.

Flying buttresses were added to the Nave after an earthquake in 1427 caused the collapse of some of the city remparts.

The 16 to 18th centuries saw some Renaissance additions to the cathedral and in 1615 the royal wedding of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, daughter of King Philip II of Spain took place in the cathedral.

During the French revolution the cathedral decorations were extensively destroyed and the cathedral was used as a storage barn until it was returned to the church in 1798. There then followed two centuries of restoration and renovation to the building we see today.

 
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The north facade is the most ornate of the cathedral with its spires and sculpted portal. The southern doorway has towers on either side which were meant to be topped by spires but these were never built. A lot of the original sculptures on this facade were destroyed during the revolution.

The western facade is very plain and this is because originally there were other buildings very close concealing the facade. Parts of the wall are remains of the original Romanesque church.

It is possible to visit the Puy Berland bell tower next to the cathedral and from its 40 meter and 50 meter observation terraces you can get excellent views over the cathedral and its flying buttresses.

Inside the cathedral take a look at the choir whose chairs each have a carved misericord. The misericord, also called a mercy seat, is carved onto the back of a folding seat so that when the seat is up the misericord provides support for the person who now has to stand, potentially for a long time.

The deeply coloured stained-glass windows date from the 19th century and in the chapel of Saint Anne there are some 14th century murals with scenes from her life. Just outside of the chapel of Saint Anne is a statue of Joan of Arc by Antoine Bourdelle who was a founding artist of the Art Deco period and a student of Rodin.

stained glass in Bordeaux cathedral

Attractions nearby

Bordeaux is a magnificent city and one of our favourites in France. Its centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a number of monuments to visit and several museums including the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Musée d'Aquitaine.

As well as the historic centre some areas such as the waterfront area and the Chartrons area are also interesting.

See more churches in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Gironde guide and the Aquitaine guide.

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The French version of this page is at Bordeaux Cathedral (Francais)