Late Afternoon/Evening, Saturday, July 12, 2014.
It wasn’t far from the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux into Amiens and we arrived shortly before 6:00 p.m. That gave us about an hour to see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Amiens. The UNESCO world heritage site closes to tourists at 7:00 p.m., and is not to be missed when one visits the city. Built for the most part between 1220 and 1270, it is the largest cathedral in France, and it played an important role in the development of classic gothic architecture. Many have said that the cathedral at Amiens is France’s, and perhaps Europe’s, most elegant.
Located near the city centre among shopping streets, the cathedral’s facade is striking and the first thing Sonya and I noticed as we approached the entrance were the dozens of finely sculpted figures above the doors. The central portal has a 13th-century statue of Christ, and an upper one contains 22 statues of the kings of Judah. The Virgin Mary is also depicted here, as are many saints of the Roman Catholic church.
The inside of the church is huge and a little like a religious art museum. There are many beautiful works here including the famous “Weeping Angel”, which became a popular postcard for Allied soldiers during the First World War. The floor is tiled in striking black-and-white geometric patterns, and the choir stalls, which were carved in the early 16th century, are stunning works of art with some 3,500 figures. Also remarkable is a religious relic brought back from Constantinople during the Crusades. It is purported to be the head of Jean the Baptist.
Having seen Notre-Dame de Paris, what stuck me most about this cathedral is how well lit it is inside. While I found the cathedral in Paris dark and almost foreboding inside, this one is full of light, due mostly I guess to the many open areas, extremely high vaults and the large number of glazed and stained-glass windows. Truly remarkable also is that this church suffered so little damage in the two World Wars. While much of the city around the church was destroyed, especially in the Second World War, the cathedral survived intact.
Later, Sonya and I had supper at a cafe across the street from our hotel. Then we took a brief walking tour of the area near our hotel before we called it a day. We’ve enjoyed our time here and tomorrow morning are off to Dieppe as we leave the Western Front behind and begin our tours of Canadian battlefields of the Second World War.