Cathedral of St Maurice

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Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2017

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The cathedral church is a massive building in the centre of Vienne. Started in the C11th it took over 400 years to build. The outside, particularly the west end, is flamboyant Gothic in style. The inside is much simpler Romanesque architecture with a long nave and small round apse.

It has established its place in the history books as the site of the Council of Vienne when the Pope Clement V, at the behest of Philip of France who was short of money, dissolved the Knights Templar, the highly respected and very wealthy Christian fighting order with their headquarters in Jerusalem. Their leader placed a curse on both Philip and Pope Clement before being burnt at the stake. Philip was dead within four months and his three sons soon after. Pope Clement died within six months.

The west door is reached up a steep flight of steps. The north west tower has been restored recently and its stonework gleams compared with the rest of the front.

The niches around the doorways are empty, the result of damage by the Hugenots during the Wars of Religion in the C16th. There are more headless statues to be found inside the cathedral.

Inside there is a very long and tall nave with arcades of fluted pillars separating nave and side aisles. The ones at the east end of the nave are the oldest with simple rounder topped arches and carved capitals. Those at the west end have more pointed arches and narrow carved capitals.

Side aisles are narrow with altars at the east end. The remains of wall paintings can be seen on parts of the on the vaulted ceilings.

There are more wall paintings in a side chapel in the south aisle. This has a lovely carving of St Peter and St Paul on the east wall.

The apse is C13th with tall lancet windows and blind arcading around the walls. Above are larger clerestory windows. There is a small stone wall mounted pulpit. The walls between the pillars are hung with tapestries.

The high altar is simple with tall gilded candlesticks and there is a splendid tomb on the south wall.

This is a very attractive church but does get busy with visitors. Plan to visit when it opens.

I visited Vienne on Day 4 of Burgundy, the River Rhone and Provence, a river cruise with Riviera Travel.

My full account with all the pictures can be found “here.”:


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