Quimper Cathedral

Quimper Cathedral
Cathedral of Saint Corentin, Quimper
Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper-1518.jpg
Quimper Cathedral
LocationQuimper, Finistère Finistère
Country France
DenominationRoman Catholic Church
DedicationSt. Corentin of Quimper
Architectural typechurch
DioceseQuimper (–Cornouaille) and Léon
Bishop(s)Laurent Dognin

Quimper Cathedral, or at greater length the Cathedral of Saint Corentin, Quimper (French: Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper), is a Roman Catholic cathedral and national monument of Brittany in France. It is located in the town of Quimper and is the seat of the Diocese of Quimper and Léon. Saint Corentin was its first bishop.

The cathedral is notable in that, unlike other Gothic cathedrals, it slightly bends in the middle to match the contours of its location, and avoid an area that was swampy at the time of the construction. The cathedral was the site of a devastating fire in 1620 when the bell tower was burned and the populace saw a green devil in the flames.[1]

Statue of Saint Corentin in the cathedral

According to legend King Gradlon met Saint Corentin on the mountain Mėnez-Hom and was so impressed by the strength of his religious faith that he invited the hermit to become Bishop of Quimper.

The cathedral replaced an old Roman church which had a chapel attached to it called the "Chapelle de la Victoire" where Alain Canhiart was buried in 1058. It was in 1239 that the first part of the cathedral was built when Bishop Rainaud commissioned the building of the choir, but it was not until the coming of Duke Jean V at the beginning of the 15th century that momentum gathered and the choir was covered with crisscross vaulting. In the same century, the western side of the cathedral and the nave emerged. The French Revolution and the subsequent Terror put paid to further progress, but after the Concordat of 1801, restoration of the cathedral followed as well as some additional construction.

When the cathedral was completed the choir was out of line with the nave, having a slight curve to the left, this to avoid disturbing the older chapel which contained the tomb of Alain Canhiart. Thus the cathedral has an odd shape, and rather imaginatively some have likened the top part of the cathedral's inclination to the left as suggesting Christ's head leaning to the left when he hung on the cross.

The cathedral exterior

There are several entrances (portals) to the cathedral: the three north portals, the south portal known as the "Porche de la Vièrge" and the magnificent west portal.

The north portals

There are three portals on the cathedral's north side, "La façade septentrionale".. On the far right is the "Porche des Baptêmes", which leads to the north nave. The portal comprises a double door separated by a trumeau. Above the doors in a triangular pediment are the arms of Canon Pierre du Quenquis, whilst at the top of the pediment are the arms of Jean V with the motto "A ma vie" and the crest of his wife Jeanne de France in a diamond-shaped lozenge carried by a dove. Just below this are the arms of Monseigneur Bertrand de Rosmadec with the motto "En Bon Espoir". To the left and right of the pediment are the arms of the Barons of Nėvet and Guengat. The "Porche de la Chandeleur" is located at the northern end of the transept and was built between 1475 and 1479 by the mason Pierre Le Goaraguer and his son Guillaume. The single door is surmounted by a triangular pediment and the arch's external voussures are decorated with carvings of acanthus leaves. Above the door is an ornate finial above which is a "hermine passant" (i.e., a stoat passant). The third portal, situated between the "Porche des Baptêmes" and the "Porche de la Chandeleur", is small and in earlier times gave access to the ossuary and cemetery; it is no longer used.[2]

The western façade of Saint-Corentin cathedral and the west portal

The west façade and portal

The west façade of the cathedral comprises two great spires and a magnificent portal with a series of angels decorating the arch's voussoirs. On the trumeau is a statue of Christ giving a blessing whilst holding a globe and treading on a grimacing demon. Before 1793, the sculpture on the trumeau had been an equestrian figure in granite of Jean V but that was destroyed in that year.[3] At the top of an arch between the two spires there is a statue of the legendary King Gradlon[4] The first stone of the western facade was laid on the 26th July 1424 by Monseigneur Bertrand de Rosmadec in the presence of a representative of Jean V, the Duke of Bretagne. Both within and without the triangular pediment above the voussoirs, are many crests and mottos including the crest of the helmeted lion of Montfort holding a standard bearing the words "Malo au riche duc!", the battle-cry of Breton dukes, the arms of Jean V, the Duke of Bretagne's three sons, the crest of Jeanne de France, Guillaume de Rosmadec, Bertrand de Rosmadec, the barons of Nėvet with the motto "Pėrag?" "Pourquoi?" and the motto of the nobles of Bodigneau and Clohars-Fouesnant "A l'aventure!", whilst on the right and near a helmet decorated with valances is the motto of the nobles of Guengat "Lėal à ma Foy" and the arms of the nobles of Quėlenec.[2][5]

The cathedral's south portal

The south portal is part of the "facade mėridionale" or "south facade" and is known as the "Porche de la Vierge" or the "Porche de Sainte Catherine". It has a statue of the Virgin Mary with child in the tympanum, with angels wafting censers on either side. She is seated and below her feet is the bust of an angel with spread wings. The child she holds is gently stroking a bird which he carries. In a niche in one of the buttresses there is a statue of Catherine of Alexandria carved from kersanton.[4] Above the door is a triangular pediment with three ėcussons ("crests or shields") including the crest of the Duchess Jeanne de France surmounted by the "hermine passante" ("passing stoat"), the emblem of Brittany, with the inscription "A ma vie". Also shown are the arms and mottos of Monseigneur de Rosmadec and Guillaume de Rosmadec. Just outside of the pediment are the crests of the Bodigneau family and the family Quėlennec. The voissoirs in the upper part of the portal's arch depict 8 angels playing instruments. The niches in the lower voissoirs are empty.[2][5]