The cathedral had been damaged by the Angevins in 1136 The nave was built by Bishop Arnulf in the 1160s; the transept had probably been reached when Arnulf retired to S-Victor in Paris in 1181. Arnulf came from a Norman clerical family but had studied theology in Paris (following Hugh of Saint Victor) and served in the household of Geoffrey of Lèves, bishop of Chartres, where he networked with reformist clergy including Saint Bernard, Abbot Suger of S-Denis and John of Salisbury. Construction of the chevet was continued under Bishops Ralph de Warneville and William de Rupierre.
Begun ca. 1160
The 8-bay aisled nave is terminated to the west by a twin-towerered western frontispiece with a narthex which may have had an upper western chapel. Lateral chapels were added between the nave buttresses. The projecting transept arms have an aisle to the east. The three-bay aisled chevet leads to a seven-segment hemicycle ringed by ambulatory and three widely-spaced radiating chapels. The axial chapel has been rebuilt.
The nave has a three-story elevation. The main arcade is composed of substantial cylindrical "columns" similar to those of Notre-Dame of Paris and Laon Cathedral. The middle level which looks like a gallery, with two openings under an enclosing arch, is in fact a triforium. Single openings in the clerstory with no passage. Quadripartite rib vaults in the main vessel. The bay divisions are articulated by bundled triple shafts that sit atop the abaci of the capitals of the main arcade piers. The transept arms and eastern bays of the choir continue this disposition, but in the extreme east end of the chevet dramatic changes appear. The main supports are slender double columns; an elegant dado lines the ambulatory; the triforium middle level receives dainty decoration and a passageway is introduced at clerestory level and the details are elegantly worked. The principal design source was S-Etienne of Caen.
The forms of the nave are quite uniform, suggestion rapid construction beginning in the ll60s although the forms of the western narthex seem archaic. The transept arms which continue the forms of the nave were constructed next; work then continued into the chevet straight bays. There is a sharp break as we go into the hemicycle which was probably completed under Jourdain de Hommet, bishop between 1201 and 1218.
Building in the French manner: cylindrical supports; colonnettes atop abaci; thin clerestory wall with flying buttresses. Master mason of nave perhaps from Mantes or S-Denis. But archaic references -- S-Martin-des-Champs, S-Germain-des-Prés and Noyon Cathedral: Arnulf may have known Baldwin II of Noyon. The chevet, built under Bishop Jourdain de Hommet (d.1218), may be understood as one of the first responses to the chevet of S-Etienne of Caen
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