Bordeaux, Cathédrale Saint-André


    Begun ca. 1280


    Single-vessel nave c15m wide and 60m long with no western frontispiece and no western portal (until the 19th century) meets an irregular crossing and transept arms flanked by towers. The choir has four straight bays with double aisles terminating in a five-segment hemicyclesurrounded by ambulatory and five radiating chapels the axial one deeper than the others looking rather like the plan of Reims Cathedral choir.


    The nave, without aisles, is, by definition, a one-story elevation. There are three levels: the lowest is a heavy mural arcade, then comes a gallery-like level where the wall is recessed and pierced by windows with a wall passage. And the high windows are also recessed with a passage. Three eastern bays have quadripartite rib vaults, three western bays have late Gothic star vaults. The choir has a three-story elevation with a dark triforium in the middle


    Old cathedral said to be in ruins by the end of the eleventh century 1096 Pope Urbain II consecrated the cathedral of Bordeaux. It is difficult to relate this event to the actual construction of the cathedral: lower west façade with its petit appareil may be 11th century -- it was directly agains the archiepiscopal palace. The nave was possibly completed and vaulted in the mid-to-later twelfth century: Archbishop Geoffroi de Louroux (1136-1158) was a great builder and had attended the 1144 consecration of S-Denis. Originally the nave had three great bays -- because of structural difficulties the scheme was reworked in the early thirteenth century when the bays were subdivided. Note that the nave floor has been raised by around 3 meters -- the space was once steeper. As the nave was being reworked c.1250 a Last Judgement portal (portail royal) was introduced into the northern flank Four westernmost vaults of the nave were replaced with star vaults under Archbishop Jean de Foix (1529). A flying buttress added on the north flank by Charles de Grammont (1533).
    The choir was begun towards 1280. Key builder was Archbishop Pierre de Roncevaux, chancellor of Thibaut V, king of Navarre and Count of Champagne. Also camérier of Urbain IV who was also from Champagne. This may explain archaisms and architectural connections with Reims. Work began with the radiating chapels leaving the old choir intact. Burial of Archbishop Simon de Rochechouart (d 1280). Radiating chapels finished by 1305. South flank of choir built before the north advancing to the crossing and returning finally to the hemicycle. Progressive demolition of old choir. Former archbishop Bertrand de Got, having became Pope, provided funds for construction of main vessel with pontifical bulls of 1307-8. Vault installed c1325; work continued on lower part of south transept. Master mason: Bertrand Deschamps (1320). Crossing space vaulted c1363; north transept finished with stone steeples by c1500. Canons' stalls installed 1389.


    Combination of great single-vessel nave of the kind associated with the Angevin west of France with a choir which points emphatically to the north. Relationship of Bordeux with the other great Gothic cathedrals of the south. Work on radiating chapels at Bordeaux c1280 is contemporaneous with start of work at Narbonne (c1272), Toulouse (c1274) and Rodez (c1277). Architectural links with Reims and Cambrai Cathedrals while the openwork flying buttresses point to the choir of Amiens. Peace and prosperity of Bordeaux made possible by the 1259 Treaty of Paris. Wealth generated from the production of wine and textiles; also trade. The construction of the choir was also helped by the support of Pope Clement V

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