French Postcards 8

What would you do if you were the Archbishop of Narbonne and you found yourself being made Pope?

You might consider honouring your former home by creating a new, gothic, cathedral – a very grand cathedral; one modeled on the splendour of those in Northern France. 

In 1268 that’s exactly what Pope Clement IV did. He decided that it would be a monument made in the magnificent style of the Kingdom of France. He had plans drawn up and the construction began in 1272. The ‘choir’, the bit at the top of the calvary cross that all such churches were based upon, was finished in 1332, but the rest of the building was never completed. What you see today is as far as it got… the dark outline in the ‘wingless’ plan below.

 This ‘grand cock-up’, as the local historians describe it, was the result of many things, including sudden changes in the economic status of Narbonne, the sheer size of the original design – which would have seen it span four city blocks- and regional economic issues.

But the biggest reason for the cessation of the construction was that someone worked out that they would have to demolish the city walls to accommodate one of the trancepts – the left side-arm of the horizontal part of the cross shape… Both trancepts have been removed from the plans you will note.

But the wingless wonder continued to crash. Over the next two hundred years the rest of the plans were gradually dropped, leaving the ‘choir’ as the only surviving part of the cathedral of Saint Pasteur and Saint Juste, as it became known to history – the Pope having, presumably disowned it by then…

But magnificent failures have much to teach us…

The good people of Narbonne took the residual ‘choir’ to their hearts and ensured that it would stand the test of time on its own terms. 

When you are in the splendour of this interior space there is only grandeur and beauty, ‘box’ or not. 

You may have gathered that we’re not cycling today. 

We’re having a rest day in Narbonne, swapping further time in the saddle for a relaxed tour of this lovely and friendly city

The Canal du Rabine, which is a Narbonne spur from the Midi, runs right through the middle of the city, as the picture shows. 

The covered market offers a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the people of the city, and how they shop and prepare their food

And then there’s the Roman Museum…

And frequent exhibitions, like this one on Australian Aboriginal art:

So, all in all, it’s been a wonderful and cultured rest day…

Tomorrow, back in the saddle and head down to Bezier!  May it not be as hot as the Homps trip!

©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016. 


10 thoughts on “French Postcards 8

  1. Pingback: French Postcards 8 by Steve Tanham | Sue Vincent – Daily Echo

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