Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cathedral St.Etienne or Cathedral of St. Stephen, Auxerre, Burgundy

 The town of Auxerre in the region of Burgundy is dominated by the Cathedral of St. Stephen
West front of the Cathedral of St. Stephen

 Nave of the Cathedral of St. Stephen looking east
The axial chapel, Chapel of the Virgin (Chapelle de la Vierge) formerly the Chapel of St. Alexander, is rectangular.  The Jesse Tree window (Window #1) is on the left.  The center window of the chapel was made in 1879, and the window on the right is the Legend of Theophilus.  Both 13th century windows date to about 1225-1240 with 19th century restoration.

     The Cathedrale Saint-Etienne or the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Auxerre was built upon an earlier Romanesque church.  The Romanesque church was built on the site of even earlier Christian churches.  Auxerre is part of the diocese of Sens that had a Gothic church with a similar rectangular eastern chapel built some years before Auxerre.  Sens has a Jesse stained glass window that dates to the second half of  the production of Jesse Tree windows, and thus will be discussed later.  Auxerre has two Jesse Tree windows.  The first dates from the 13th century and the second from the first quarter of the 16th century.  The older 13th century Jesse Tree window in the axial chapel is the only one discussed now.

    Auxerre is part of the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region that was the autonomous region of the Duchy of Burgundy for much of the Middle Ages.  For the whole period, the Duchy of Burgundy was not part of the French crown lands.  It was annexed in 1477.

   The Gothic rebuilding of Auxerre Cathedral began about 1215. Two Romanesque towers collapsed in 1217, and this resulted in a complete rebuilding campaign in the Gothic style on the older Romanesque crypt.  The chevet that included the eastern axial chapel was completed about 1240. (Chevet is the semicircular east end of a typically French Gothic church that extends beyond the choir and includes an ambulatory and radiating chapels.) This chapel was originally dedicated to Saint-Alexandre until 1783. After the Revolution, it was rededicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The dates for building the chevet help to date the Jesse Tree window in the rectangular chapel to about 1225-1240. 

       Construction on the cathedral continued intermittently. There were periods when construction stopped such as the famine period of 1315.  Building began again in earnest in the 1340s.  The dedication of chapels off the nave of the church confirm that the nave was being built in the 1350s.  The building of the cathedral seems to have been impacted more by the Hundred Years than the Black Death of 1348-1350. Work did not commence again until the late 14th and into the 15th century.  The upper north tower of the west end facade was not complete until 1543.  The south tower was never built.  The cathedral was extensively restored in 19th century.  
     The Chapel of the Virgin, formerly the Chapel of Saint-Alexandre, was a mortuary chapel for the Counts of Chastellux from 1483 onward.  After Claude de Beauvoir de Chastellux died in 1453, he was reinterred in the Chapel Saint-Alexandre in 1483.  Other family members were then buried there.  The tomb was damaged during the French Revolution.  Cesar Laurent, Comte de Chastellux undertook the restoration of the tomb in 1822. 

      The Cathedral at Auxerre suffered mostly man-made disasters, especially damage during war, rebellion, and periods of iconoclasm.  The Huguenot captured the town in 1559.  Repairs to the damage were undertaken in the 1570s and 1580s. The  cathedral was remodeled in the 18th century.  More restoration was done from 1866-1875.  The window restorations in the Chapel of the Virgin (Chapelle de la Vierge) were undertaken in 1879. 

Window 1 of the Chapel of the Virgin, Cathedral St. Etienne, Auxerre, France. Glass is 13th century with 19th century restoration.
Photo credit for all stained glass windows: Painton Cowen

Crowned Virgin Mary below the feet of Jesus Christ.  She is seated in a position that is often reserved for Jesus Christ.  She is seated with her right hand help up in blessing of the faithful.  She holds a book in her left arm.
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A generic king of Judah.  This figure is the fifth king above the reclining figure of Jesse.  King is flanked by Daniel on the right and an unidentified prophet on the left.

Generic king of Judah.  This is the fourth king above Jesse.The prophet Abdias or Obadiah is on the right and Malachi is on the left. The prophet seem to show extensive restoration.

Prophet Ezekiel .  He is the figure to the right of the third generic King of Judah above Jesse.

Prophet to the left of Jesse.  I cannot identify with any certainty, perhaps Aggeus or Haggai.
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   The older Jesse Tree window at Auxerre follows the pattern of other French Jesse Tree with with static frontally posed figures that are seated and grasping the vine like Jesse Tree.  The use of red and blue is more evenly divided in this window.


Harry Titus, A Chronology for Auxerre Cathedral. Wake Forest University. 

Ulrich Knop (2003) Histoire de la restauration du choeur de la cathédrale Saint-Étienne d'Auxerre Dissertation

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