Cathedral of Saint Alain of Lavaur, part II

Well , we have come several times and always a must in Lavaur, our sentimental city for reasons already told on several posts in my blog, The Saint Alain Cathedral is a majestic monument, a must to visit in town if anything else. The Cathedral of Saint Alain is a masterpiece that needs to be discovered by many. Right now is a sentimental town and Cathedral for us and lucky to be able to see again this time with my 3 young men and nice borador Rex. We love it and sure will be back eventually,


The Saint-Alain Cathedral of Lavaur is the only city in the southwest of France, to have a Jacquemart, emblematic character, wooden automaton hoisted in the tower. The legend of the Jacquemart tells that, during the wars of religion, a Protestant prisoner locked in the tower of the cathedral had the obligation to ring the bells every hour, day and night. He devised a stratagem, by constructing a mechanical figurine to do it in his place, and could thus escape the jailers!


The nice history of this marvel condense style by yours truly.

The Saint Alain Cathedral is of southern Gothic style , and was built between 1255 and 1300. At the front is the Bishopric Garden (see post). The origin of Saint Alain honored at Lavaur remains unknown. The foundation of the Saint-Alain priory is certified by a charter of August 5, 1098 to the Benedictine monks of the Saint-Pons-de-Thomières abbey, responsible for rebuilding the Saint-Elan church in Lavaur, then in ruins , which proves that the worship of Saint Alain in Lavaur is clearly prior to this date.


A Romanesque church was then built between 1099 and 1211 by the Benedictines of Saint-Pons for their priory of Lavaur, destroyed during the Albigensian (cathars) crusade during the siege of 1211. The current Saint Alain Cathedral was rebuilt in the middle of the 13C, started around 1255 retaining the small southern steeple of Jacquemart from the Romanesque style. A vast single nave of slender proportions such as high of 23 meters by wide of almost 14 meters, the 13C church had only five spans closed at both ends by a straight wall. The erection of the priory as bishopric of Lavaur in 1318 transformed the church into a cathedral, a prelude to enlargements of it, which would continue until the beginning of the 16C on the initiative of the bishops.


Thus, in the 14C, chapels were built between the buttresses. In the middle of the 15C, the chapel currently used as a sacristy was built, under the name of Saint Martial and in 1480 contiguous to the west of it, the canons established a chapter room dedicated to Saint Gauthier. Frescoes paintings executed in 1730 adorn its walls, telling episodes of the history of Lavaur. With the promotion of the city to the rank of Bishopric in 1318, the cathedral underwent a series of embellishments: apse on the east side in 1332, north and south chapels between the middle of the 14C and the beginning of the 16C, a powerful bell tower and monumental portal to the west at the end of the 15C. The great Cavaillé-Coll organ was installed in 1876 in a magnificent polychrome carved wooden organ case 1523, a masterpiece of Renaissance art from the South.

It was especially in the last quarter of the 15C that great works are undertaken giving the Saint Alain Cathedral its present look. Its width is about 14 meters and its total length 73 meters. Passing from the construction of a new episcopal palace adjoining the cathedral to the north (destroyed at the beginning of the 19C) it undertook to build the imposing western bell tower with three terraces, 42 meters high and, to connect it by an additional span to the rest of the church, realizing at the same time a nave of a great extent. The curious crown carved in fleur-de-lis at the top of the tower recalls that it was completed under the episcopate and it was still at the end of the 15C that a chapel was attached to the south of the old Romanesque porch, well preserved, with rich capitals reminiscent of the childhood of Christ. A new side entrance, adorned with pinnacles, surmounted by the bishop’s shield is then made on the south flank of the connecting span.



Since 1967, the altar of the Saint-Alain Choir has had a table whose exact provenance we do not know. It was found in 1876, in the chapel of the Lavaur hospital, but it is not there its place of origin This Romanesque table, in white marble probably from Saint-Béat, is part of the rest of the production altar tables from the ecclesiastical province of Narbonne. The upper side is slightly hollowed out, but its great interest comes from the sculpture of its slice cut into a chamfer, The main theme of the front side: a blessing Christ in a circular mandorla, is the same on both tables. A series of angels, completes this face. On the right side are represented two angels supporting the altar table itself, a motif which can be found on the cutter of one of the capitals of Saint-Sernin Basilica in Toulouse. The sculpture on the left side is of a more delicate interpretation; it would represent two angels worshiping the bread of heaven. The fourth side was intended to be engaged in masonry and is not decorated.



A very beautiful organ completes the overall arrangement with a high-quality Renaissance buffet by Toulouse sculptor Nicolas Bachelier ; instrument redone in 1889 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Finally, the first mechanism and the bell that makes the famous Jacquemart ring, date from 1523. But it appears that the automaton (currently 3rd generation) will not take place until 1604. In 2016, the Saint Alain Cathedral was the subject of renovations, so the painted decor of the 19C today has a second youth. Take the time to admire this Cathedral as a whole!!


The city of Lavaur on the Saint Alain Cathedral

The Local Tarn Agout tourist office on Lavaur’s heritage

The Catholic Diocese of Albi on the Saint Alain Cathedral of Lavaur

There you go folks, a masterpiece and should be visited more , even if Lavaur is still in the off the beaten path of most visitors. It is a wonderful cathedral surrounded by beautiful buildings and gardens all walkable. A delight me think. Do come and enjoy the Saint Alain Cathedral in sentimental Lavaur, the Tarn 81 of Occtanie in my belle France.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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