Germans in France -
saint quentin cathedral [basilique]
bridges in France and the world 2: focus on Portugalete, Chicago,
During World WarOne, Germans occupied the city on 28th August 1914. Following this, there were many battles with Allied troops fighting in this locality during 1914, in 1917, and twice in 1918. One British soldier here was the war poet Wilfred Owen. St Quentin was finally liberated on 1st October 1918.
During the German occupation, there were many attempts to dislodge the Germans, resulting in the near total destruction of the cathedral, leaving just the outer walls.
When St. Quentin was relieved by French troups on 1st October 1918, chasing the Germans so they left the city precipitately. On entering the cathedral, the French soldiers were outraged to discover in the walls and pillars, ninety-three holes made and filled with explosives so the edifice could be blown up as the Germans had done to the donjon of Coucy in 1917. Some of the holes were 110 cm deep, 80 cm wide and 70 cm high. A German engineer captain was found left behind to do the diabolical chore, but he was stopped in time.
On 15th August 1917, the cathedral was set on fire and by the next afternoon all that was left was the outer walls. German newspapers claimed that the fires had been started by French gunfire. However, the 15th was relatively calm in this region with few bombardments. On the other hand, German troops had been seen pillaging the city of St. Quentin, including their officers being party to wholesale removal of stolen goods, including coal, factory equipment, wine and mattresses (for wool).
By 1918, the cathedral was almost completely destroyed, except the exterior walls.
As you can see in the photograph just above, there are tie-rods high in the springing. (Compare this with Westminster Abbey, of which the tie-rods are positioned where the pillars meet the springing.) These rods allowed tensions to be adjusted as a help in stabilising the building. They existed in both the apse and the nave. In the late 19th century, these tie-rods were removed from the nave. During the war damage, it is noted that the vaulting still held up fairly well in the nave, while it collapsed in the apse.
The damage to the cathedral was considerable: not only the vaulting of the apse had collapsed completely, the flying buttresses were partially destroyed, there were numerous breaches in the walls and buttresses, while some masonry threatening to collapse could precipitate large falls, and the state of the bell tower was particularly worrying.
After the war, the Basilique de St. Quentin was restored.
The task of restoration was given to Emile Brunet, chief architect of the Historic Monuments Service, sometimes known as “the cathedral man” for his knowledge of ancient building techniques. At first, German prisoners of war cleared about 3,000 cubic metres of cut stone and rubble. Unfortunately, not being adequately supervised, they further damaged carvings and decorations. The most urgent consolidations of masonry was done by specialised workers, parts from damaged sculptures being put aside carefully for later restoration.
In order to protect the stone of the building from the weather until the roof was replaced, a temporary framework of eaves was placed on the top of the remaining walls, onto which 5,000 square metres of fibro-cement and Ruberoid sheeting was spread.
The restoration took twenty-five years.
Floor plan of the Basilique de St Quentin, drawn by Emile Brunet.
The red dots mark 93 bore holes made by the Germans for holding explosives in order to destroy the building.
the labyrinth ('maze')
The Basilica of Saint Quentin has a labyrinth. The labyrinth at Amiens is somewhat similar. (Much more information on this at the Amiens link.)
cathedrals – introduction: reading stained glass
gothic cathedral and church construction
Chartres - wonder of the world
history of ugly stained glass: Auch, Bazas, Dreux
Auch cathedral choir and stalls
Rouen and Monet
Dax and church iconography photographs, Dax
Bazas - iconography and architectural styles
Poitiers, neglected masterpiece photographs, Poitiers / photos 2
Angers, heart of the Angevin Empire photographs, Angers
Laon, the midst of the gothic transition, with added oxen photographs, Laon
Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon
Notre Dame of Lausanne
Senlis - how a typical cathedral changes through the ages
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges - the cathedral of the Pyrenees
Le Mans and Bourges cathedrals - medieval space technology
Lausanne rose window - photo-analysis
cathedrals in Lorraine - the Three Bishoprics
cathedral giants - Amiens and Beauvais
Clermont-Ferrand and Agde - from volcanoes to cathedrals
Germans in France - Arras cathedral
Germans in France - Reims cathedral
Germans in France - St. Quentin cathedral
Germans in France - Noyon cathedral
Germans in France - Cambrai cathedral
Germans in France - Soissons cathedral
cathedral plans, and facts
using metal in gothic cathedral construction
cathedral labyrinths and mazes in France
cathedrals and cloisters of France by Elise Whitlock Rose
© abelard, 2010, 29 May
the address for this document is http://www.abelard.org/france/germans_in_france-stquentin.php