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St. Pierre Cathedral

4th Qtr 2000

Location

Lisieaux, France

Description

Lisieaux is the primary commercial and industrial town in the Auge region of the Normandy Department in France. It is situated on the Touques River about 40 kilometers (24 miles) due south of Le- Havre, the main port of France on the English Channel. The old section of Lisieaux was totally destroyed in World War II except for St. Pierre Cathedral. Lisieaux has fully recovered from the war today and is a typical example of a small town in Normandy.

The town is famous today as a pilgrimage center for devotion to St. Teresa of Lisieaux (St. Thèrése Martin). She was born in 1873, became a Carmelite nun at age 15, and died at an early age. History of a Soul is the story of her life that she authored. It was finished only days before she entered the hospital to die a slow and agonizing death. She was beatified in 1923 and canonized in 1925 as a Saint.

The Cathedral is on the square in the center of what was the old town. It was begun in 1170 and not completed until the middle of the 13th Century. The primary style is Gothic although the tower on the right of the west facade was rebuilt in the 16th Century (the Renaissance Period!) in the Romanesque Style (the 11th Century) and given a spire in the 17th Century. It thus is similar to the famous Cathedral at Chartres in having an asymmetrical facade. The south facade / entrance was rebuilt in the 15th Century and contains the famous "Paradise Door" as its entrance, has a gallery that surmounts it, and is flanked by massive buttresses.

At the crossing there is the typical lantern / spire of Norman churches that crowns the transept. The nave begins on robust round columns with circular capitals supporting wide arches, again typical in Norman churches (even when in England after the conquest, as in Durham Cathedral), continues up through the blind triforium gallery to the grand clerestory windows and groin vaulting. The Chancel from the 13th Century circles round the east to the large central Chapel built in the Flamboyant Gothic Style in the 15th Century. This was done by Pierre Cauchon, Bishop of Lisieaux, after the trial of Joan of Arc that he presided over in nearby Rouen.

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