The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, more commonly known as Amiens Cathedral, is the tallest and largest of the three great Gothic cathedrals in France built during the 13th century.
Situated on a ridge that overlooks the River Somme in Amiens, the Amiens Cathedral is the 19th largest church in the world. Because of its architecture and beauty, the cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
In order to bring in more light, the builders of the cathedral maximized the internal dimensions (133.5 meters). It is seven meters longer than Reims Cathedral and 15 meters longer than Chartres Cathedral. It was built between 1220 and 1270 on the initiative of Bishop Evrard de Fouilly. The architects who designed this magnificent building were Robert de Luzarches and Thomas de Cormont and later his son.
The cathedral houses a relic of John the Baptist, which allegedly contains his head. It was brought there from Constantinople by Wallon de Sarton when he was returning from the Fourth Crusade. Many later additions took place, including the labyrinth that was installed in 1288, the grand organ installed in 1549, and the spire over the central crossing which is 112 meters was added between 1529 and 1533.
The façade of the cathedral has three portals which are decorated with sculptures of saints and biblical figures. One of the portals (on the right side) is dedicated to the patron saint of the cathedral, Saint Mary. The portal on the left side is dedicated to the first Bishop of Amiens, Saint Firmin.
In the 1990s, it was discovered that the western façade was painted in multiple colors which were applied in the 13th century. A few techniques were developed which determined the exact colors of the old façade and lighting techniques were developed to project the same colors with precision.
The interior of the cathedral is supported by 126 pillars and it is the largest in Western Europe. There are numerous chapels inside and one of the most sumptuous is the Drapers’ chapel that can be seen in the ambulatory that surrounds the choir. Another significant chapel is the one dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury.
The whole interior is filled with works of art and decoration from every century since the building of the cathedral. The most notable are the baroque paintings of the 17th century painted by Frans II Francken and Laurent de La Hyre. The choir stalls are remarkable works of art with some 3,500 figures that were carved in the 16th century.