Amiens is the largest cathedral in France, with an interior volume twice that of Notre-Dame de Paris.
ROME — While the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris was completely destroyed in last year’s devastating fire, another Notre-Dame cathedral, the largest in France, offers the opportunity to see the spire on which she was based and to venerate a precious relic.
Notre-Dame d’Amiens cathedral, 130 km north of Paris, celebrates its 800th anniversary in 2020 by displaying its relic of Saint John the Baptist for veneration. The relic has traditionally only been displayed to the public on the saint’s feast days, June 24 and August 29.
Amiens is the largest cathedral in France, with an interior volume twice that of Notre-Dame de Paris. Construction of the Gothic cathedral began in 1220, shortly after France acquired the relic of Saint John the Baptist from Constantinople. When it was built, it became a popular destination for 13th-century pilgrims.
Saint Louis, King Charles VI and Charles VII made pilgrimages to Amiens to venerate the relic, and a 17th-century French bishop vowed to build a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist after invoking the saint’s intercession for the end from the plague epidemic of 1668 The renovation of this chapel and reliquary was completed in time for this year’s anniversary.
For its rector, Fr. Édouard de Vregille, the 800th anniversary is an opportunity to evangelize through culture and beauty by partnering with secular historical and cultural organizations in France to bring more people to the cathedral for concerts, tours and educational events that turn tourists into pilgrims.
“The idea is to go through culture and beauty to announce the Gospel to as many people as possible. Vregille told CNA.
“Our missionary strategy is to attract the general public with a quality cultural offer in order to offer them the possibility of a spiritual experience of Christ,” he said.
Since the reopening of the cathedral after France’s lockdown, the rector has decided to keep the cathedral open until 10 p.m. for visitors during the summer months, recruiting seminarians to give tours of the cathedral.
While the pandemic has prevented visitors from visiting the cathedral for months of its jubilee year, Amiens has extended the celebration of its 800th anniversary beyond its scheduled end in December 2020 and is planning a festival at the end of the year. .
“The confinement allowed us to propose a new way of discovering the cathedral and bringing it to life every day via video and photos: we celebrated mass in each of the many chapels of the cathedral”, said Fr. Vregille.
The Gothic cathedral has 11 side chapels originally built between 1290 and 1375, but renovated over the centuries. Its nave reaches a height of 139 feet with open interior arches and large stained glass windows, which had to be replaced after their destruction in the midst of the world wars of the 20th century.
The cathedral survived both the turmoil of the French Revolution and the heavy fighting in the surrounding River Somme valley during World War I and World War II without further serious damage.
After French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc led restoration work on Amiens Cathedral in the 19th century, he turned to the cathedral’s 16th-century wooden spire as a historical model for his design of the spire of Notre-Dame de Paris.
The current oak spire of Amiens Cathedral was built between 1528 and 1533. During this time, relics of the True Cross, the Last Supper table and Saint Thomas of Canterbury were placed at its end.
After the April 2019 fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, people are turning to Amiens again, Vregille said.
“The fire of Notre-Dame de Paris turned the gaze towards Notre-Dame d’Amiens, whose frame is from the 13th century and whose spire inspired Viollet-le-Duc to make that of Paris”, a-t -he declares.
The rector said that the title Notre-Dame d’Amiens, Our Lady of Amiens, is an essential part of the identity of the cathedral.
“We will move the original statue of the Golden Virgin to the nave of the cathedral so that visitors can easily identify Our Lady of Amiens,” the father said. said Vregille.
The Virgen Dorée, or Golden Madonna, is a 13th-century statue of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child located on the trumeau of the cathedral’s south door which was once gilded with gold.
“In Amiens, we are welcomed by the tenderness of Notre-Dame and urged to conversion by the humble and powerful testimony of Saint John the Baptist”, declared the rector.