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Germans in France -

noyon cathedral

Noyon cathedral interior, after German WW1 shelling
Noyon cathedral interior, after German WW1 shelling

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This page is a subsidiary page to Germans in France.

cathedral of notre dame, noyon
over the vaults
some history
noyon architecture
the medieval stained glass of noyon cathedral
 background facts 

cathedral of notre dame, noyon

Noyon is one of the earliest cathedrals in the great medieval Gothic building phase. Nowadays, people refer to Noyon as being in Picardy. But if you asked an inhabitant of Noyon at the time the cathedral was built in which region they lived, they would have said, “France”.

By the time of this cathedral was being built, Noyon was rather going down in the world. Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks at Noyon, as was Hugh Capet, who was the originator of the Capetian dynasty.

As is usual, the ‘modern’ cathedral was built on the site of previous, less grand, churches/buildings stretching back to pagan times. As often, the new building scheme was to replace the burnt out, previous structure. Of course, they could have refurbished the old cathedral, as the main cause of cathedral fires was the wooden forest in the roof and other timbers going up in flames, leaving the stone core.
Noyon cathedral was as complete as these projects ever are by about 1235. In 1293, a enormous fire broke out in Noyon, spreading to the cathedral. By the 18th century, there were still traces of that fire. Then came the Revolution. Recovering from that lasted until 1910, and the came the Germans. They burnt the cathedral out again.
Noyon cathedral, circa. 1900. Source: Brooklyn Museum
Noyon cathedral, circa. 1900. Source: Brooklyn Museum
Pillar statue, destroyed German bombardments
Pillar statue or trumeau, destroyed during the German bombardments

over the vaults
A dubious advantage of the destruction of these great cathedrals during the First World War was being able to look at the structure of the vaults with the lid off.
medieval rubble over the vaults of Reims
In the above photograph, you can see the medieval rubble over the vaults of Noyons. You can see not only the rubble, but also the simple dressed stone [arches at top] and the more complex, carved stone [columns and main vaults, lower down].
Exposed vaults of  Noyon cathedral,during restoration
Noyon cathedral with its roof off during restoration
And here is Noyon cathedral with the roof off and the rather more tidy concreting, the modern idea of rubble. Of course, this much reduces the fire risk from the traditional and medieval forest.
some history
The cathedral was the target of much revolutionary zeal and bile, as Noyon was so closely associated with the French monarchy. In 1793, the statuary of the west and transept portals were ordered destroyed, an order that was carried out with great efficiency. Only four small corbel figures survived, which had been covered up. So the marvels of the statuary’s carving has been lost.
Noyon was probably the most important cathedral after Reims to be widely destroyed during WW1. It was built very early during the great cathedral building era, being primarily constructed between 1150 and 1200, though the cathedral was heavily rebuilt after a major fire in 1293. Fortunately, its big brother at Laon remained undisturbed. The restoration at Noyon, continuing almost up to the Second World War, has recovered as much as could be expected.
The revolutionary government ordered the cathedral be sold, but the price put on it was so high that this did not happen, and eventually the horrors of the revolution receeded. It was used as a hay barn, granary, stable and dance hall, again the usual combination of dedicated revolutionary desecration, tempered by utility.
Reconstitution of the cathedral plan as executed to 1235

The destruction by the Germans during the First World War was much more extensive.

Marker at abelard.org

From With three armies on and behind the western front, 1918 by Arthur Stanley Riggs (1879-1952).

“[...] the cathedral [Noyon] is less damaged than I expected: only the organ shows traces of the invader's sacrilegious hand - its pipes ravaged to make shell-bands.”

Noyon cathedral interior, after German WW1 shelling.
Noyon cathedral interior, after German WW1 shelling

1918: Noyon cathedral, viewed from the south-east
1918: Noyon cathedral, viewed from the south-east

South side of the nave, 1918
South side of the nave, 1918

noyon architecture

The South transept at Noyon, illustrating how the triforium here is below the tribune level.
The South transept at Noyon, illustrating how the triforium here is below the tribune level.
Columbia University

Looking from the north transept across to the south transept at Noyon cathedral.
Looking from the north transept across to the south transept at Noyon cathedral.
Bibliothèque national de France

Note the unusual features, including rounded ends, to the transepts, and triforium below the tribunes in places.

The North transept is unlit on the eastern side, due to the proximity of the Salle du Trésor [Treasure Room] built outside at the same time as the cathedral was constructed (note the blank archway above the doorway on the left).

the medieval stained glass of noyon cathedral

[The details in this section are unreliable at present.]

With the great travails of history, very little medieval stained glass survived at Noyon. These two windows probably survived because the vestry, where they had been located, was in a protected corner away from the main body of the cathedral.

From what I have made out so far, these panels had been badly damaged and then restored. This is quite common, even to the extent that fragments of glass were picked off the ground from amongst the rubble, sometimes after considerable delay.

Only nine of the twelve panels in the windows are regarded as reliable. The others probably involve a degree of imagination.

medieval stained glass at Noyon cathedral medieval stained glass at Noyon cathedral

These two windows were moved to the axial chapel, in the apse behind the choir. They illustrate the life of Saint Pantaléon.

Background facts
NoyonNoyon coat of arms approximate population : 14 ,240
average altitude/elevation : 43 m
cathedral dimensions
total length : 102 m
nave width : 105 m
nave height : 21.5 m


Notre-Dame of Noyon in the Twelfth Century: A Study in the Early Development of Gothic Architecture by Charles Seymour Jr.

W W Norton & Co Inc, 1968, pbk
ISBN-10: 0393004643
ISBN-13: 978-0393004649

This is a reprint of a book first published in 1939 by Yale University Press.

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Some reference keywords/tags:
cathedrale,france,germany,1870,1914,1940,invasion,occupation,cathedrale,Noyon,Picardy,Panteleimon,France, Germany, 1870, 1914, 1918, 1940, invasion, occupation, cathedrale, church, eglise, cathederal, gothic cathedral construction, Cathedrale, Gothic architecture, German bombing, son et lumiere, stained glass windows, Chartres, Rouen, Poitiers, Dax, Noyon, Reims, Laon, Soissons, Arras, Cambrai, Saint Quentin, map, diagram, diag, illustration, photos, image, images, photograph, picture, pics,

end notes

  1. Corbel
    A projection jutting out to support a weight.

  2. Big brother in the sense that it is more unified and has suffered less destruction and remodelling. Laon, fortunately, survived World War One and the Revolution reasonably intact. Of course, Noyon also suffered the great burn-out of 1293.

    Comparative sizes of
    Noyon and Laon cathedrals
      Noyon Laon
    total length 102 metres 110.5 m
    nave width 21 m 30 m
    vault height 22.7 m 24 m

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