Bourges Cathedral

Bourges Cathedral

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Bourges Cathedral

State Party = FRA
Type = Cultural
Criteria = i, iv
ID = 635
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 1992
Session = 16th
Link =

Bourges Cathedral ("Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Bourges") is a cathedral, dedicated to Saint Stephen, located in Bourges, France. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Bourges.


Construction on Bourges Cathedral began on in 1195, the same time as Chartres Cathedral. The choir was completed by 1214 and the nave was completed in 1225-1250. The west façade was finished in 1270. The architect was Paul-Louis Boeswillwald and the master builder was Philip Berruyer.

The cathedral was added to the list of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1992.

Dimensions and Structure

The cathedral's nave is 15m wide by 37m high; its arcade is 20m high; the inner aisle is 21.3m and the outer aisle is 9.3m high. The use of flying buttresses was employed to help the structure of the building. However, since this was a fairly new technique, one can easily see the walls were still made quite thick to take the force. Sexpartite vaults are used to span the nave.

Notable Features

Bourges is notable for the uniqueness and unity of its design, seen in no other cathedral of the High Gothic era. It features two distinct horseshoe aisles that wrap around a central nave and choir. The inner aisle has a higher vault than the outer aisle. Each ambulatory/aisle has its own portal at the west end. The five portal entrance necessitated more careful design to create a more coherent façade. This also eliminated the usual cross-shaped transept design. The gallery is absent; instead the inner aisle has been raised. This gives the cathedral a pyramidal shape under the buttresses. The flying buttresses are very structurally efficient (particularly compared to those as Chartres, which is a contemporary structure) as the steep angle channels the thrust from the nave vaults and from wind loading more directly to the outer buttress piers.

The Great Tower is a copy of one found at the Louvre and symbolizes royal power. The statues on the façade smile at the tympanum of the Last Judgment, welcoming the Judgment of Christ. The Romanesque carved portals from about 1160-70, probably intended for the facade of the earlier cathedral, have been reused on the south and north doors. The profuse ornamentation is reminiscent of Burgundian work.

Bourges Cathedral retains almost all its original ambulatory glass (apart from the axial chapel), dating from about 1215. The iconography used in many of these windows uses typology (such as Old Testament episodes prefiguring events in the life of Christ) and symbolism (such as the pelican who pecks her breast to feed her young on her own blood and the lioness who licks the malformed cub into shape) to communicate theological messages. Other windows show the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the story of Dives and Lazarus, and the Apocalypse.


* William of Donjeon

External links

* [ Sacred Destinations: Bourges Cathedral]
* [ History of Gothic Architecture: Bourges]
* [ Bourges Cathedral at UNESCO World Heritage]
* [ City of Bourges: Saint-Etienne cathedral]

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