By Patrick Robert

In 2007, UNESCO inscribed on the World Heritage List half of the city of Bordeaux, 1810 ha and 376 buildings. Every month, discover in this space an emblematic monument of the city.

This month: Saint-André Cathedral by Patrick Robert

The primatial cathedral Saint-André de Bordeaux, located on the place Pey-Berland, is the most imposing place of worship in Bordeaux. Separated from the cathedral, its bell tower – the Pey-Berland tower – constitutes a belvedere of choice, on the surroundings.

It is the cathedral church of the Archdiocese of Bordeaux.

The early church was founded in the third century. The place of worship suffered destruction during the medieval invasions: Visigoths at the end of the 5th century, Saracens in 725, Norman invasions in 848 and 864.

Rebuilt during the 11th century, the cathedral was consecrated on 1 May 1096 by Pope Urban II, on tour to preach the First Crusade. It was rebuilt in the Angevin Gothic style from the 19th to the 16th century.

In this church two royal marriages were celebrated: in 1137, the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine, then aged fifteen, with the future Louis VII, King of the Franks; and in November 1615, the marriage of Anne of Austria, Infante of Spain, and Louis XIII, King of France and Navarre.

At the time of the Revolution it became a fodder store and suffered a devastating fire in the nineteenth century. Its furniture was restored with the remains of other churches.

After the Revolution, during which the 1629 instrument had been destroyed, the great organs experienced through the centuries disappointing attempts at reconstruction. Finally, in 1973, the choice was made of a neoclassical instrument, developed by organ builder Georges Danion, with 76 real stops spread over 4 manuals of 61 notes and a pedal board of 32 notes.

As for the treasure of the cathedral, accumulated during its history, these goods are «made available to the Nation» and guaranteed the debts of the new revolutionary state. It was not until 1947 that the episcopal see recovered a treasure thanks to a Bordeaux man who went to Paris to become a parish priest: Barthélémy Marcadé. For about fifty years it constituted a collection of paintings, statues, objects, illuminated liturgical garments. Returning home for his last days, he donated it to the State, which presented it in the cathedral.

A single nave of Romanesque origin, a 14th century Gothic choir, three beautiful portals, funerary murals, alabasters from Nottingham, bas-reliefs, the «Christ in Cross» by the Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens (circa 1660-1670) and 18th century gates make the cathedral a witness of a thousand years of Bordeaux history.

Saint-André Cathedral has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 as part of the Camino de Santiago.