The Notre Dame Cathedral of Amiens is the largest Gothic cathedral in France and one of the largest in the world of the 13th century, capable of holding the Notre Dame cathedral of Paris, not once, but twice. The building is exceptionally large : 145 meters long, 70 meters wide, and 112 meters to the top of the spire. The roof of the nave rises to a height of 42 meters. This masterpiece of classic gothic architecture is an invaluable testimony of human creative genius, built in just 60 years during the 13th century. The exceptional state of preservation of its statuary, rich furnishings, the consistency of the layout designed by architect Robert Luzarches, the elegance of its three-level elevation, and the richness and beauty of the iconographic representations all give us a testimony of the outstanding universal value which is rightly recognized by UNESCO.
Notre Dame Cathédral of Amiens
30 place Notre-Dame, 80000 Amiens
Website - tel 03 22 80 03 41.
Open daily :
October through March : 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ; April through September : 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Guided tours (1 hour, 30 minutes) :
April, May, June, September : Friday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
In July and August: every day at 4 p.m., except Saturday at 11 a.m.
Full price / reduced price: €6 / €4 / children 6 - 12 years old: €3. Free for children under 6 years old. Family Pass: €15.
Audio tours (6 languages, 1h). Audio rental : €4.
A special version for children is available (for children age 6 and older). Audi rental: €2.50
The western facade
The main facade of the cathedral has three portals decorated with more than 3,000 sculptures depicting various episodes from the Bible. They are surmounted by two galleries, the lower of which houses statues of the Kings of Judea in its 22 niches and by two towers framed by a rosetta in flamboyant Gothic style. Gargoyles and chimeras complement the overall decor. The importance given by the builders in the design to give more depth and volume to the ensemble is especially notable here.
The three portals of the façade are richly decorated and show scenes from the Bible. In the center stands the spectacular portal of the Last Judgement surrounded by the right portal, called Mère-Dieu (Mother of God) and to the left, the portal of Saint Firmin.
The Portal of the Last Judgment or the Beau Dieu
The tympanum retraces the resurrection of the dead who have been judged by Christ. At the bottom of the tympanum, they are depicted coming out of their graves, while the Archangel Michael holds his scale to weigh their souls. Also pictured is a demon trying to influence the weight. At the central level of the fresco, the damned, pictured naked, are pushed toward the mouth of the Leviathan. Finally, at the top level, Christ sits upon his throne, surrounded by the Virgin and Saint John. In the arches framing the tympanum, angels, archangels, virgins and kings attend the Last Judgment.
In the center of the portal, at the trumeau, stands an ornate sculpture representing Christ. One of the many masterpieces of sculpture featured at the cathedral, this sculpture is also called the Beau Dieu (literally, the Handsome God). At his feet are a lion and a dragon. The 12 apostles on the sides are surrounded by four prophets. The medallions at their feet represent vice and virtue.
The Saint Firmin Portal
Saint Firmin, evangelizer of the city in the 4th century, is represented on the trumeau. Above, the tympanum shows the discovery of the body of the saint. Other saints are depicted in statues located on either side of the portal. The bases of the statues are adorned with medallions representing the Picard calendar, also called the Amiens Zodiac. The figures illustrating the zodiac signs are shown working in the fields and are dressed according to the seasons.
The portal of the Mère-Dieu (Mother of God) is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Above the doors on the first illustrated band, there are six characters of the Old Testament, Mary’s ancestors. At the intermediate level, scenes of death and of the Assumption of the Virgin are illustrated. Finally, at the top, the Virgin is crowned in heaven. The Virgin and Child on the trumeau are pictured walking on evil, which is represented by a imaginary animal. Below are carved scenes representing the original sin. A detailed statuary stands on either side of the portal. On the left the most important life episodes of Mary are shown: the Annunciation, the Visitation and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. On the right, Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, King Herod and the Magi are pictured. Finally, the medallions at the bases of the statues represent episodes from the life of Christ and the kings.
Above the portals sits the Gallery of the Kings of Judea, featuring 22 of them, itself topped by gargoyles that divert the water of the upper galleries. The beautiful rosetta window that overlooks the cathedral is 13 meters in diameter. Also called the "Rose de la Mer" (Rose of the Sea), it was added in the 16th century. The polychromy of the west portal is has been restored to what would have been its original appearance at the time of construction. The show "The cathedral in color" allows visitors to appreciate the majestic beauty of these colorful decorations. See "Events".
The cathedral Towers
– tel: 03 22 80 03 41.
Full price / reduced price : €5.50 / €4.50. Free for EU citizens under 26 years old (free for non-EU citizens under 18 years old).
Open every day except Tuesdays.
April, May, June, September : visits organized Monday to Friday at 3 p.m. and 4 :30 p.m. Open for free visit on Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
July and August, visit organized daily at 11 a.m. Open for free visit from 2:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
From October through March, visit organised at 3:45 p.m.
Visits appropriate for children age 5 years and older.
Completed in the early 15th century, the towers round off the cathedral. There are some noticable architectural differences between the two towers: the south tower, completed in 1366 has a classic Gothic style, while the second, completed in 1402, is more flamboyant. A sundial adorns the south tower. The roofs of the two towers are also richly decorated with sculptures divided into three groups : on the bottom stand the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Firmin. Above, stands King Charles V and his son. And still higher sits Cardinal Jean de La Grange. The top of the 302 steps offers a beautiful view over the city of Amiens.
Roofs and upper parts
The roof features several large gargoyles for discharging the rainwater. The chimeras, with their disquieting appearances, adorn the heights of the cathedral. On the roof, above the gargoyles, are the Musician Kings.
The first spire dated back to 1288, but a fire destroyed it three centuries later. The new spire, built in oak and covered with lead, was erected in 1533. Octagonal, it weighs 500 tons. Richly decorated with statues and lilies, it represents a major technical and artistic masterpiece. The hollow lead statues represent Christ, Saint Paul, Saint Firmin, Saint John the Evangelist, the Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Jacques and Saint Pierre. The decoration is completed with gargoyles and chimeras in lead.
The south facade and Saint Honoré portal
The Saint Honoré portal (or portal of the Golden Virgin) sits on the south side of the cathedral. The tympanum sculptures illustrate the life of the saint, former bishop of the city of Amiens, who lived during the 6th century. This portal also called the Golden Virgin because of the statue that adorns its trumeau. The Madonna and Child is a true masterpiece ; she is crowned, smiling, caring for the baby Jesus. It is much less rigid than the representations of the Virgin at the time. This statue also owes its originality to the posture of the Virgin, slightly swaying, supporting her weight and that of Jesus on one leg. This style was later frequently replicated in other religious buildings.
What is striking upon entering the cathedral is the height of the nave, the highest in France, and the light that illuminates the harmony of proportions and airy lightness of the internal vessel. Built on three levels, the vault rises to 42 meters, while the sides rise to 20 meters, which is already exceptionally high. The weight of the structure rests on pillars. This is the main difference between Gothic and Romanesque architecture, which based the weight of the structure on the walls. This technique allows large bay windows and rosettas to perforate the building, which makes the interior exceptionally bright for a religious building.
The pavement and the labyrinth
The pavement of the cathedral is exceptional in itself, as it presents an elaborate geometric ensemble. It was restored in the 19th century to reflect its original state. The octagonal labyrinth in the center of the cathedral is 234 meters long. The pilgrims who came to honor the relics of Saint John the Baptist followed the labyrinth on their knees along the black line, in the manner of the Way of the Cross. A cross was placed at the center of the maze facing the cardinal directions, surrounded by the three architects of the cathedral and by the Bishop Evrard de Fouilloy, who undertook the project. At this time, it was very rare to honor the builders of cathedrals.
The bronze effigies
Two tombs are exposed on either side of the central nave, surmounted by effigies of bishops Evrard de Fouilloy on the right and his successor, Geoffroy d'Eu on the left. These beautiful works of art in bronze, made from a single piece, are unique, dating back to the 13th century. The amount of detail is remarkable, notably the face of Evrard de Fouilloy and its harmonious proportions. The two bishops are in Episcopal robes, supported by six lions and crushing evil creatures under their feet. These artistic works demonstrate the know-how and technical expertise of founders of the time.
The Chair of Truth
The Chair of Truth, on the left, dates back to 1773. It is supported by three beautifully crafted statues representing Faith, Hope and Charity, and is surmounted by an angel. Its baroque style is somewhat surprising.
The choir of the cathedral is closed by a wrought iron gate. It also consists of a part in baroque style and carved stalls of exceptional beauty.
The Baroque Choir
A choir in a baroque style was added in the 18th century. The high altar dates back to 1751. The sculptures that frame the choir are in decorated in gold. This baroque ensemble is unique in France ... and differs greatly from the rest of the ornamentation of the cathedral.
Guided tours are available at the gates of the choir every day between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The 110 stalls of the cathedral, in flamboyant Gothic style, are made of oak and represent a masterpiece of cabinetry, unique in the world for the size and beauty of the representations. They were made and installed from 1508 to 1522. The illustrated scene is composed of more than 400 characters and recounts the events of the Old Testament and scenes from the life of Mary. The armrests feature characters depicting life in Amiens at that time. Sometimes amusing, they are perfectly executed. The backs feature more than 2,200 lilies, symbolizing devotion to Mary. The stall for the kings of France is particularly extraordinary, and includes lace wood overhangs. The construction of the complex was so perfect that the traces of assembly are imperceptible, as if this exceptional collection came from a single tree. During your visit take time to admire the details of each scene.
The choir screen
The stone choir screen dates back to 1530. The sculptures on the south side, the most remarkable ones, detail the history of Saint Firmin, the first bishop of the city. The two mausoleums located below are dedicated to Ferry de Beauvoir and Adrien de Hénencourt. The many niches on the north side recount episodes from the life of Saint John the Baptist, and are meant to be read from right to left. The wrought iron choir screen (18th century) is a true work of art.
The Weeping Angel (1637)
Behind the altar, the Weeping Angel overlooks the tomb of Guilain Lucas. Created by Nicolas Blasset in 1628, it was known worldwide during the first World War thanks to allied soldiers (British and Americans) who sent postcards of its image to their families back home.
Chapels around the choir
The apsidal chapels surrounding the choir are composed of a expertly executed statuary, created over the centuries. The transept chapels are dedicated to Saint Sebastian, Notre Dame du Puy, Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
Full price/ reduced price: €3/ €2.80
In the Treasury room, a piece of skull bone belonging to Saint John the Baptist is presented in a jewellery box from the 19th century. This was the same John the Baptist who baptized Christ in the Jordan, and whose head was presented to King Herod. The skull of the saint was brought back from the Fourth Crusade in 1206, after the sacking of Constantinople. It is kept near the sacristy and is presented to the public once a year, on June 24th. It was specifically to accommodate this precious relic that Evrard de Fouilloy decided to build the cathedral. The treasury also includes the shrine of Saint Firmin (reliquary in which the body of the saint is preserved) in 13th century silver and many other masterpieces.
The grand organ essentially dates back to the 20th century even though some parts of the buffet are from the 15th century.