The Saint-Pol-Aurélien Cathedral of Saint Pol de Léon !!!

This is another first by yours truly the road warrior, Well Bretagne has a bunch and I am working on it, We had time so we continue our ride into Saint-Pol-de-Léon , another beauty of the Finistère department,29 in my lovely Bretagne, in my belle France. The town of Saint Pol de Léon takes its current name from one of the legendary founder saints of Brittany in the 6C: Saint Pol Aurélien. Therefore, let me tell you about this wonderful monument, a must to see in town; the Saint Pol Aurélien Cathedral of Saint Pol de Léon !!!

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien front jun22

Again, this will be long, as so much to tell you as far as history and architecture me concerns. I have pull info from my books but the load was such that I used a lot from Wikipedia. Hope you enjoy the post as I.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien front door jun22

The Saint-Pol-Aurélien Cathedral, Place du Parvis, 13-16C, Roman-Gothic, Robert Dallam organ (17C). The Saint-Paul-Aurélien Cathedral of Saint-Pol-de-Léon seat of the diocese of Léon, created in the 6C and abolished in 1801, A first cathedral was destroyed by the Danes in 875. A second, built in the Romanesque period, was damaged by Henry II Plantagenet in 1170. The construction of the current cathedral began in 1230, bearing resemblance to the great Norman cathedrals, from which it gets the architectural influence.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien back chevet jun22

The church is dedicated to Saint Paul (Pol) Aurélien . According to the hagiography, the Life of Paul Aurélien, written in 884 by the monk Uurmonoc of the abbey of Landévenec, Paul Aurélien would be a monk who came from Wales to evangelize the territory of the Osismes around 525. He would have been the first bishop of the city, possibly an abbey-bishopric on the Irish model. The first church was destroyed in 875 by the Danes. A Romanesque church, probably unvaulted, was rebuilt on this site in the first half of the 12C. The construction of the current cathedral began around 1230, with the western facade. The construction site dragged on and lasted until the 14C.  In the nave, the south portal of the 13C was replaced in the 15C by another made of kersantite. Finally, between 1521 and 1539, the transept was redesigned by launching new vaults; during this period, the chapels of the southern ambulatory were also modified to allow a new layout of the space, After the troubles of the French revolutionary period, the 1801 concordat created in place of the two former dioceses of Cornouaille and Léon the single diocese of Quimper and Léon, which further included elements of the former dioceses of Vannes, Tréguier and even Dol. The Cathedral Saint-Pol-de-Léon retains the title of cathedral, but the main seat of the new diocese becomes the cathedral of Quimper. The old cathedral was built as a minor basilica of the Annunciation by Leo XIII in 1901.  The cathedral is not large: total length: 79 meters, length of transept: 43 meters, total width of nave: 16 meters, height of nave: 16 meters, and height of towers: 55 meters.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien nave to altar jun22

The Norman influence is particularly noticeable when observing the facade: it is built on the model of the two-tower harmonic facade , However, the Norman models are not followed in all: the top of the central part has a rectangular shape, Contrary to the Norman buildings which carry openwork triangular gables, In addition to the frontage and the western porch, one can enter the nave by a porch located at the south of the cathedral. Three bays long, it probably housed the statues of an apostolic college. Only the canopies of four of them remain. Added to this are the Caen stone tympanum and the granite vaults, which also date back to the 13C. Seen from the outside, the staggered chapels of the apse form a series of recesses on the lower level, under Anglo-Norman influence, which contrast sharply with the three glazed sections of the roundabout of the upper choir: this part inherits much more from the French Gothic architecture. The nave is built of limestone imported from Normandy, a rare and precious material in Brittany, which attests to the care taken in the building. It has three nerfs, separated by large arcades falling on piles composed of multiple columns. The transept is particularly elongated: each of the two arms has four bays. Its elevation comprises only two levels: large pointed arcades surmounted by large tall windows. It is essentially the transept of the Romanesque cathedral, brought up to date in the 14-15C, The chevet is built on a particularly original plan, which combines the ambulatory chevet with radiating chapels and the flat chevet with redents. The aim was probably to build, at least in part, on the foundations of the Romanesque cathedral. The cathedral houses a very rich glazed ensemble; however, most of the windows are modern, as the vast majority of old stained glass has disappeared. Only three stained glass windows still contain old stained glass; they are still largely recomposed.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel joseph marie et child jun22

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien baptismal font chapel jun22

The high altar was built in 1745 of sculpted in black marble on a rectangular plan, with a curved elevation, it is surmounted by a eucharistic suspension in the shape of a palm tree in painted and gilded wood, redone in the years 1820-1825. Two angels in painted and gilded wood frame the altar on either side. The choir also contains 66 wooden stalls carved in the 16C, divided into two rows of 17 and 16 stalls on one side and the other. The high stalls, located behind the low stalls, have a canopy back.  In addition to the high altar, the Saint Pol Aurélien Cathedral contains many altars with or without an altarpiece, Behind the high altar, a sculpted granite altar, probably erected in the 16C, bears on the facade the coat of arms held by angels of Hamon Barbier, canon of the cathedral and archdeacon of Quemedilly. It is surmounted by a wooden tabernacle in the form of a niche, which once stood on the main altar, in front of the palm tree. In the choir, another altar with an altarpiece, called the communal altar, bears the date of 1662, It once featured a gilded and painted niche, surmounted by a dome and an image of the sun carried by two angels. Behind the stalls, leaning against the south wall, is a granite altar built in the 15C. It is surmounted by a predella decorated with plant ornaments, and featuring a mutilated Virgin of Mercy (the head of Christ is missing) In the axial chapel is an altar dedicated to Saint Joseph. Built in the second half of the 19C, it belongs to neogothic art. It is composed of a rectangular altar whose antependium has three medallions representing the Virgin, Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus in bust, surmounted by the tabernacle embedded in the step and on the door of which appears the Good Shepherd. Two wings each with six canopied niches housing the statues of the Apostles frame the tabernacle (two statuettes are missing), In the second chapel to the east of the south transept, another neo-Gothic altarpiece bears the date 1854. into a rectangular altar placed on a step whose edge is delimited by a liturgical fence. Above the altar, the altarpiece serves as a frame for a 17C painting on canvas depicting Saint Francis handing over the scapular to a bishop, who may have been René de Rieux, bishop of Léon when the Minimes were installed in Saint-Pol-de-Léon in 1622. The painting, which comes from the chapel of the Minimes, destroyed in 1793,during the French revolution.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel st pol aurelien relics jun22

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel rosary jun22

In the last chapel on the south side, an altar with an altarpiece is dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was built in the second half of the 17C for the chapel of the Carmelite convent, then, following the destruction of this building in 1793, it was installed in 1811 in the north arm of the cathedral’s transept. It was moved again in 1973 and was then installed in its current location. It is composed of a rectangular carved wooden altar, placed at the top of two steps and decorated with an antependium divided by four twisted small columns into three curved panels. A tabernacle is embedded in the stands. The set is surmounted by an altarpiece with a false niche, also in carved wood, which houses a polychrome terracotta statue of the Virgin and Child. Four twisted columns carry a semicircular pediment decorated with two angels. On the south wall of the south aisle, an altar with an altarpiece is dedicated to Saint Anne. It was built in 1748, for the altar part, and decorated front of the altar in 1754. The altarpiece is contemporary with the altar. The set is made of wood with faux marble decor; the altar is a glazed chest and houses a statue of Saint Emilian.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel mont carmel jun22

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel visitation jun22

In the north arm of the transept, leaning against the eastern wall, is an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows. The altar is also known as the Altar of the Departed, as it was here that the Office of the Dead was held until the 1970s. Carved from oak wood, it was created in the second half of the 19C for the last chapel on the south aisle, where the altar of Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel is located today, then installed in its current location in 1970. The whole takes the form of a step that supports a rectangular altar, the tabernacle is framed by two panels in bas-reliefs representing the appearance of an angel to Saint Paul Aurélien and a scene involving a child, Saint Paul Aurélien and the discovery of a bell. A neo-Gothic dais surmounts the whole In the second chapel of the north transept, a neo-Gothic style altar was built in 1897 for the transfer of the relics of Saint Paul Aurélien. The altar houses a silver reliquary made by silversmith, which contains the relics of the cathedral’s patron saint. A statue of the saint is placed on this reliquary. The northeast chapel, which was once attributed to the Brotherhood of the Rosary, houses the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary. This altar was built in the second quarter of the 17C, then renovated in 1748 and again in 1752. It is composed of a step that carries a rectangular altar. Above the altar is a tabernacle whose door is framed by four twisted columns; above, the altarpiece has a painting representing the Virgin of the Rosary and Saint John the Baptist interceding for the inhabitants of the city, surrounded by medallions representing the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. Around this painting, two niches framed by twisted columns that carry an entablature; a semicircular pediment crowns the central part. The whole is carved in wood and some parts are painted in faux marble. The cathedral also has an altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart, built in the 19C. it is composed of a rectangular altar, the antependium of which is decorated with statuettes among which the Virgin and her parents Anne and Joachim, as well as Saint Madeleine and a holy woman. Above the altar, the hexagonal tabernacle is surrounded by two bas-relief panels depicting the Samaritan woman at the well and Saint Anthony writing.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien chapel St Joseph et child jun22

The Saint Pol Aurélien Cathedral is also home to many statues and statuettes such as the statues of Saint Apollonia, Saint Joseph, and Saint Christopher. In addition to the paintings that adorn the altarpieces, the cathedral houses various old paintings, The old Saint-Paul-Aurélien cathedral also houses several tombs. The oldest is a Romanesque sarcophagus (10-12C,,,,) in granite of Sainte-Catherine, A nave of the northern ambulatory houses a funerary ensemble nicknamed the “Shelves of the Night”. It is a set of thirty-five wooden boxes, in the shape of chapels surmounted by a cross. The front of the boxes reveals their contents through a cloverleaf or heart-shaped opening: each box protects a skull, identified by the name and date of death. The oldest of these items date back to the 16C, The cathedral houses a bronze bell whose origin may date back to the 6C, which would make it one of the oldest bells in France , The great organ was built between 1657 and 1660 with a laidout very close to that of King’s College, Cambridge. It is decorated with a black and white checkerboard, trompe-l’oeil, evoking a semi-circular courtyard framed by colonnades.

Saint Pol de Leon Cathedral St Pol Aurelien organ jun22

 The official Diocese of Quimper on Saint Pol de Léonhttp://The official Diocese of Quimper on Saint Pol de Léon :

The city of Saint Pol de Léon on its must see monuments

The Roscoff tourist office on St Pol de Léon

There you go folks, this is a dandy of the must see in Saint Pol de Léon. Impressive as you come into city center, wonderful, sublime, words cannot describe it fully, again a must to see. Another gem in my lovely Bretagne, and I am just beginning….Again ,hope you enjoy the post on the Saint Pol Aurélien Cathedral of Saint Pol de Léon!!!

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

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2 Comments to “The Saint-Pol-Aurélien Cathedral of Saint Pol de Léon !!!”

  1. This is impressive !

    Liked by 1 person

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