Paul Aurelian Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Paul-Aurélien) is a former Roman Catholic cathedral in Saint-Pol-de-Léon, in Brittany (France). Since 1901, the cathedral also is "Basilique Mineure de l'Annonciation" (minor basilica).
It was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon, a bishopric established in the 6th century and abolished under the Concordat of 1801, when its territory was transferred to the Diocese of Quimper.
Built on the site of an ancient Roman church, some vestiges of which still exist. This great monument has been constructed in several stages. The present building however, although on the same site, was built in the 13th century (with later additions). The facade with its two high towers and the remarkable nave from the 13th century made of limestone from Caen, limestone demonstrate this stylistic and economical heritage from Normandy. The western façade and the south porch date back from the 13th century whereas the chancel (choir made of granite) and the transept are from the beginning of the 15th century. The cathedral was completed in the second half of the 16th century (the ambulatory and the southern chapel). It also has an ensemble which is almost unique in Brittany
The 50-metre spires are from the end of the 14th century. In the 16th century, side chapels gave it its definitive stature. The cathedral is 80 metres long in total, 16-metre height under the vaults and 44 metres wide with the transepts.
In the north tower, there are three bells which date from more than three centuries ago, including the oldest bourden bell in Brittany, which weights more than 2 tonnes, and was cast in 1563.
Brief overview of distinctive features
Beyond its great architectural significance, the cathedral shelters a multitude of unusual artistic curiosities.
- The great organ in the cathedral built between 1657 and 1660 by the English refugees Robert and Thomas Dallam. It is composed of 2118 pipes and it is listed.
- The 16th-century oak stall.
- The relics, amongst them Paul Aurélien Celtic bell, one of the oldest Carolingian bell in Brittany and, in a crystal tube, a thorn from the Christ crown.
- 32 boxes containing skulls, a reminder of the custom in use until the 19th century, which consisted in exhuming the skeletons after five years in order to make room to the new deceased. The bones were carefully laid down in the charnel house and the skulls were locked up in small pierced boxes and they were then handed over to the families.
- The stone (tomb) of Marie-Amice Picard, where is buried one of the most extraordinary figures of the history of mysticism. She died in 1652, and in her days, she has attracted the attention of the greatest European minds. She remained 17 years without taking any food, she suffered the martyrdom of the Saint of the day.
- A Roman sarcophagus which is thought to be the sepulture of Conan Mériadec, first Christian king of Brittany, who died in 421.
- The ciborium containing the Holy Eucharist. It is located above the former high altar, it has the shape of a palm tree symbolizing the eternity and the resurrection. There are three similar ciboriums in France(in Amiens, Reims and Saint-Germain).
- (French) Cathédrales de la France: Saint-Pol-de-Léon
- Catholic Hierarchy: Diocese of Saint-Pol-de-Léon
- (English) Pictures
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