Roman city Autessiodurum on the Via Agrippa linking Provence with northern Gaul. The first known bishop (mid-4th century) was Valerianus. The episcopal group including basilica Sancti Stephani in civitate is cited in a liturgical text from the period of bishop Aunaire (561-605); it has been claimed that the Mater Ecclesia was founded by Amatre (386-418). The church was rebuilt and decorated by Bishop Heribaldus (824-857) and extended to the west (including a tower with upstairs chapel) by his successors. A fire in 1023 destroyed this church and rebuilding was undertaken by Bishop Hugues de Chalon (999-1039) with a new choir mounted atop a vast crypt and flanked by towers. We are told that the new work was in ashlar and that it resisted a second fire. Part of diocese of Sens. Cloth manufacturing. Wine production. A commune in 1194. Southern part of Burgundy traditionally more prosperous -- but the north began to prosper after 1150.
Begun ca. 1200
The five-bay aisled nave terminates in a western narthex and a twin-towered frontispiece, the southern tower being flanked by an enormous mass of masonry. Double-bay transept arms are generated from the central crossing space and to the east the chevet is made up of four straight bays and a seven-segment hemicycle. Like Sens Cathedral, Auxerre has a rectangular axial chapel; as in the Soissons south transept and at S-Remi of Reims, two slender columns mark the threshold of that chapel.
The crypt formed part of the 11th-century church built by Bishop Hugues de Châlon. The bishop's palace was rebuilt (with Romanesque promenoir) by Bishop Hugues de Montaigu (1115-36) Construction was initiated by Guillaume de Seignelay (1207-1220) who gave 700 pounds for the first year of construction. Eodem tempore, circa novas ecclesiarum structuras, passim fervebat de novo ? populorum. Videns itaque episcopus ecclesiam suam Autissiodorensem structure antique minusque composite squalore ac senio laborare, aliis circumquaque capita sua extollentibus mira specie venustatis, eam disposuit nova structura et studioso peritorum in arce cementaria artificio decorare, ne ceteris specie studiove penitus impar esset; eamque fecit a posteriori parte funditus demoliri, ut, deposito antiquitatis veterno, in elegantiorem juvenesceret speciem novitatis. At that time the piety of the people everywhere burned for the construction of new churches; when the bishop saw that old architecture of his old cathedral was mean and old, while elsewhere other most beautiful cathedrals were being built, he decided to have a new church built and decorated most sumptuously?. Guillaume had close family ties to the Ile-de-France. Work began circa 1215; the collapse of flanking towers in 1217 led to a complete rebuilding. The original vision was of a lower structure, perhaps without flyers. The extention upwards led to the introduction of light-weight tracery flyers. The chevet is thought to have been completed 1234 when Bishop Henri de Villeneuve was buried there -- he left 1000 pounds for the work of construction. However, Titus has proposed a somewhat later completion date. The chevet was modified in the 14th century (first two piers east of the crossing rebuilt) and the buttressing modified) and heavily restored in the 19th. The lowest level of the western frontispiece was begun in the mid-13th century (south and center portal) and the south transept in the early-to-mid 14th century, but the nave and north transept remained incomplete . The nave was completed in the late 14th century with the vaults installed in the early 15th. Completion work on the north transept arm was delayed until the late 15th century finished under Bishop Jean Baillet, 1477-1513); work also resumed on the upper western frontispiece and the upper north tower was finished between 1515 and 1543.
The chevet was considered by Branner to have been one of the most important formative monuments in "Burgundian Gothic." In Branner's conception the inception of the new "style" is linked with restless experimentation that led the vision of the Auxerre chevet to be modified (increased in height) during construction. The tall clerestory windows with their plate tracery are clerely a response to Chartres. The tall triforium, wall passages, and double slender columns in the mouth of the chapel point to Champagne (Troyes, La Madeleine; Reims, S-Remi) Similarly, the initial plan for sexpartite vaulting in the alternating system of the chevet was modified in favor of quadripartite vaults. Another indication of changing intentions was the abandonment of the original plan to build a lantern tower. Like S-Quentin, Auxerre Cathedral reflects the superimposition of a tall "High Gothic" superstructure upon an infrastructure not intended for such lofty height.
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