I’m going to make it short today because I’m back in Paris for the first time since the summer, and I have a lot of exploring to do. Amiens is a city located about 150 km northwest of Paris, and 800 years ago the city was booming because of the wool trade. With big fancy cathedrals popping up in Chartres (whose perfect 1:1 arcade to clerestory ratio, by the way, was copied at Amiens) and other regions near Il-de-France, the bishop of Amiens decided to step things up. In 1220 construction started under an architect named Robert, and when Robert died in 1228 the father-son team of Thomas and Renaud de Cormont stepped up and more or less finished things up. That accounts for the differences in stained glass window styles–the technical term is bar tracery–you may notice in some of my photos: small changes in the design were a signature, if you will, of each one of the men who oversaw construction of the cathedral. Or if you’re a family therapist, perhaps Renaud’s partitioning of the clerestory windows from 4 lancets to 8 was his way of rebelling against his overburdening and at times distant father. We’ll never know.
There are tours of Amiens cathedral held every afternoon, and the best part is that they’re much cheaper (free, if you’re under 25) than at Notre Dame in Paris. After the tour guide took a few us up to the top of the North Tower and I had sufficient time to impress him with my knowledge of art history and all things Gothic and pointy-arched, I persuaded him to let us into the triforium, the elevated second level of the cathedral roughly 70 feet above the floor. He told me that they only open the triforium up to visitors only twice a year, but I guess my poor, American-accented French (that’s a joke, by the way, I get complimented on my accent quite often) did the trick, because I found myself in a place that few people go. Alright, your two minutes are up: I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
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13 thoughts on “Two Minutes of Your Time For Amiens Cathedral”
Wonderful that you got to the triforium level, Nathan. We really get a sense of the immense height of the nave in these shots.
Thank you Dennis! I was thinking of you and PJ when I was up there 🙂 And also recalling what you told me months ago about trying to get special access into cathedrals like this! Have you been up there at Amiens?
No, we haven’t shot Amiens yet – I have seen it but not photographed. Did you see the entasis in the nave columns by the crossing? Hard to see.
My final semester at Brandeis I took a course titled “Age of Cathedrals” and we watched a documentary about Amiens that revealed the entasis as the nave columns extend upwards. I stood next to the southeast column on the crossing and noticed about 3/4 of the way up it really starts to curve. You probably already know this but there are iron bars nailed into the weaker sections of the cathedral, and theres an iron reinforcing bar that runs along the entire triforium. I was really in the belly of the beast 🙂
Loved the cathedral photos. One of my favorite things to do in Spain last summer was to tour and photograph the cathedrals. Your photos brought back pleasant memories for me.
Cathedrals are so incredible to photograph! They present every challenge of photography–light, shadow, depth, height, everything.