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Cathedral complex of Grenoble, Notre Dame Square
Its location near the Gallo-Roman rampart and more notably, near a gateway into the city is typical of cities in southeastern France.
Made up of the Notre Dame cathedral and neighboring Saint Hugues church, as well as the old bishop's palace and the vestiges of the baptistery, the cathedral complex represents an ensemble of buildings with the oldest above ground parts dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
Ten years of archeological digs and restoration work, from 1989 to 1998, allowed researchers and city planners to better understand and present this remarkable piece of Grenoble's history.
The former Episcopal palace houses the Old Bishops' Palace Museum, inaugurated in Sept. 1998. Since Feb. 1999, the museum has allowed visitors to go underground into the vestiges of the Gallo-Roman wall and the baptistery from the days of Grenoble's first Christians.
Uncovered during the construction work on the second tram line in 1989, the vestiges of the cathedral's baptismal font were a major discovery.
The remarkably well-preserved state of the vestiges, especially the baptismal font and the paved floor which remained mostly in their original state, allowed researchers to better understand the layout and the architectural evolution of the baptistery.
In its original layout, from the late 4th to early 5th centuries, the baptistery of Grenoble had a more or less square shape.
White marble paving stones surrounded the eight sided, 75 cm deep baptismal font
The sacrament of baptism was hence carried out by full immersion, once a year, the Saturday before Easter.
In the 5th century, a semicirclular apse was built on the east side.
Several hundred colored glass mosaic tiles were found on the site, some of which included gold leafing, allowing us to imagine what the walls must have looked like.
The base of the central column, the lead water adduction pipe, and a large part of the limestone paving stones around the baptismal font are still in place.
In the beginning, only bishops were authorized to to administer the sacrament of baptism. In the 7th and 8th centuries, they would delegate this responsibility to the priests.
Baptisms would then be carried out on baptismal fonts in the cathedral and the baptistery was then destroyed.
Notre Dame Cathedral and Saint Hugues church
The only way to learn more about this first construction would be to conduct an archeological dig beneath the current cathedral.
It is thus at the end of the 4th century that the bishopric of Grenoble was created.
The oldest known bishop is known by the name of Domnin (Domninus in Latin).
The city adopted the new name in honor of the emperor who had just made Grenoble a religious capital.
The bishop, spiritual leader of the diocese, also held earthly power for many centuries.
The implantation and reinforcement of the power of the Counts of the Viennois (Dauphins) in Grenoble began in the 11th century and led to incessant conflicts between the two rulers. The bishop would nevertheless hold the title of Prince of Grenoble up until the French Revolution.
From the beginning, it was part of a double church system, which means that two churches were built side by side: an Episcopal church, Notre Dame, and a second church, Saint Hugues, whose original role is not precisely known.
Was it the bishop's private chapel or more probably a training area or preparation area before receiving the sacrament of baptism?
During the Middle Ages, the Saint Hugues church became the parish church of the old city, on the left bank of the Isère.
The double church layout, characteristic of the early Christian era, has rarely been so well preserved as in Grenoble.
Two capitals come from the original Roman entranceway, but only one remains in place, on the right side.
The other original is preserved in the Dauphinois museum and has been replaced by a copy on the cathedral. Inside, several vestiges of the Roman construction are still visible, notably, the "Saxon pillar."
At the end of the 12th century or beginning of the 13th century, a massive porch tower was erected and it continues to dominate Notre Dame square. Its base is made of limestone, but the upper parts are built of brick.
Built during a single construction campaign, the porch tower perfectly illustrates the radical change in building material at the beginning of the 1200s and the new preference for brick architecture.
The choir and the nave of the cathedral were rebuilt around the middle of the 13th century. The presence of the porch tower to the west and of the urban rampart to the east only allow for a small expansion.
The apse of the cathedral and its buttresses were thus built against the city ramparts, making it necessary to build a covered way. On the north side, the cathedral was enlarged and then stood against the Saint Hugues church. The space separating the two churches thus disappeared.
The central nave with its brick ribbed vault were altered at the beginning of the 18th century when the high arched window were replaced with larger openings. The nave also lost its lateral tribunes which today only overlook the second aisles.
The choir is one of the most remarkable parts of the cathedral, because it was rarely altered. The five sided apse has kept its original bays and their complex moldings. The bishops' tombs, built in 1407 by the bishop Aimon II or Chissé, are located on the left. Restored after the Wars of Religion and the French Revolution, it no longer houses the mausoleum of the Cardinal Le Camus, which was moved to the right of the cathedral entrance in the 19th century.
It is crowned with a remarkable and precious tabernacle of Carrara marble in the shape of a tempietto that dates from 1576. It comes from the Grande Chartreuse monastery, which itself received the tabernacle from the Pavie Charterhouse.
Five sculpted and gilded wooden panels, dating from the 18th century, decorate the apse walls. They represent various scenes from the life of Christ.
The stained glass windows were created in 1879. The center window represents Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of the church.
The space just in front of the choir, where the cathedral chapter and its 18 canons were seated until 1790, has hosted new liturgical furnishings since June 2008.
Exclusive creations of Parisian architect Jean-Mari Duthilleul, a new alter and Carraras marble pulpit decorated with fine gildings, as well as a walnut wood cathedra, were placed in the choir.
In 1883/1884, an impressive and costly neo-Roman façade of false stone was built against the porch tower. Designed by the diocese architect Berruyer, the façade, with three entrance ways, was supposed to give a more conventional appearance to the cathedral.
After the discovery of the baptistery, this façade was destroyed in 1990, giving Notre Dame an appearance closer to that of the Middle Ages.
A major burial site, Saint Laurent is a key element in understanding funeral rites and burying methods from the earliest Christian era to the 18th century.
More than 1500 sepulchres have been found.
Eight mausoleums from the 4th and 5th centuries figure among the oldest in the collection. One of them, unique in France, has preserved its interior decoration which consists of faux marble painting.
The site's most valuable treasure is undoubtedly the Saint Oyand crypt, vestige of a funerary church built in the early 6th century in the shape of a Greek cross. Each branch contained three apses, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
Although the higher parts of the church were destroyed during the Carolingian period, the east wing of the crypt has survived in remarkable condition.
It was decorated with a colonnade made up of 20 columns Vimine breccias, Bourdeaux conglomerate, or white marble from Savoy, reused from ancient times.
The columns are topped with capitals and abaci made of limestone from the Baux de Provence ou white marble with remarkably rich sculpted decorations, typical of Christian iconography of the 7th century: palm trees, date trees, lambs, doves, griffons, and vases with leaves escaping from them, symbol of the Resurrection.
In the 11th century, the site began changing vocations when a community of Benedictine monks from the Saint Chaffre monastery in Velay settled here.
The abbot of this monastery was related to the bishop of Grenoble.
The Benedictine founded the Saint Laurent priory and rebuilt the church around 1150.
During the second half of the 17th century, the priory was suppressed and Saint Laurent became a parish church and the seat of a chapter dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint Laurent.
The bay arches of the choir finish as fine columns with sculpted capitals.
At the base of the roof, sculpted modillions represent different volatiles, animal heads, or human faces.
Two sculpted snakes are also visible.
A rare vestige of the 14th century fortifications still stands against the bell tower.
The scale and wealth of the discoveries make it necessary to deconsecrate the parish church in 1983.
The site could then become the Saint Laurent Church Archeological Museum.
The site will be closed for renovation until the end of 2010.
The projects in progress consist of the creation of a roof protecting the cloister and the installation of an exhibit space for the collection of objects uncovered during the digs.
The crypt was classified on Feb. 26, 1850. The entire site (church and surroundings) was classified Aug. 10, 1977.
It's the Dauphin André, who, beginning in 1228, launched the construction in order to house the chapter of canons, that he had founded two years earlier in Champagnier, just south of Grenoble. He sought to affirm his power against that of the bishop.
The chapter or college of canons gave its status to the church of Saint André, which was not just a simple parish church before the French Revolution, by a collegiate church. The Saint André chapter included 12 canons and a superior, the provost. Today, only the slightest vestiges of the canons' living quarters exist. Their little houses, as well as their cloister were destroyed at the beginning of the Revolution.
Second oldest chapter in the city, the canons of Saint André always had to leave the place of honor to the older canons of the cathedral chapter during official religious festivals and processions. The conflicts between the two chapters were legendary.
Built in the 13th century, when religious and noble buildings were constructed of brick, the Saint André collegiate church follows the rule.
Only the basement and the northern chapels, built later, are of limestone. The elegant Gothic steeple and its four smaller steeples are made of tuff, and were completed in 1331.
The highest point in the city until the late 19th century (56 meters), the Saint André bell tower received the city's first public clock in 1398, after approval by the canons.
The innovative feature of the church is its proportions, notably with very high windows. There is a single nave, with low transept arms and a flat chevet. A blind arcature, old element of Lombard architecture, runs along the base of the roof.
The three entranceways of the Saint André collegial, which date from the early 13th century, are still in Roman style.
The western entrance, traditionally the main entrance of religious buildings, was not a public entrance for this church.
It was reserved for the canons of the Dauphins. Its sculpted tympanum depicts Saint John the Baptist accompanied by the Pascal Lamb.
This entranceway's lintel is supported on the left by a lion and on the right by a strange chubby person.
The northern entrance has always been the main entrance of the collegiate church. Originally recessed into the wall of the nave, it was moved forward and placed between the two Gothic chapels built of white limestone at the end of the 15th century. This explains why the frame of the northern entrance is not in Roman style, but in a flamboyant Gothic style.
Restoration work on the northern façade of the collegial, which will begin in spring 2010, will restore the original splendor to the entranceway.
This is equally true for the Gothic part, with the reconstruction of the gable and the two oculi that frame it, as for the Roman part, with the displaying of painted scenes from the 14th century on the lintel and the archivolts.
The original shape of the church-a Latin cross-was altered by the addition of 3 chapels on the northern side.
Built at the end of the 14th century and the middle of the 15th century, they formed a sort of aisle when the northern entranceway was moved.
The choir, which housed the magnificent tombs of the three Dauphins André (Guigues VI), Jean II, and Guigues VIII until 1562, has conserve its wooden stalls from the 17th century as well as the marble alter, created by Francesco Tanzi around the middle of the 18th century.
The organs date from the 18th century and the stained glass windows from the 19th century. Thos of the left side of the choir depict the martyr of Saint André among others.
The window of the northern transept retells diverse episodes of the life of Saint Bruno and the founding of the Grande Chartreuse monastery.
The tomb of Pierre du Terrail, knight of Bayard, was transferred from the Minimes convent in Saint Martin d'Hères to the northern transept in 1822. The bust of the famous knight, who died in 1524, was created by the sculptor Jacob Richier at the beginning of the 17th century.
Ever since the Dauphiné was officially made part of the kingdom of France in 1349, the Saint André collegiate church bore the title of royal chapel. It hosted the grand masses for the Dauphiné parliament and even more notably, the great sung masses for the return of the parliamentarians.
Built between 1689 and 1699, it was consecrated just after construction by Monsignor Le Camus and dedicated to Saint Joseph, patron saint of king Louis XIV and protector of France.
A plaque bearing a Latin inscription, placed just above the entranceway reminds passersby that Louis the Great had this house built for the Lord, in the year 1699.
The church, laid out in the shape of a Latin cross by the king's engineer and the city's architect Claude Mollart, is of very sober, classical architecture. The bell tower, with its arched bays closed by sound-absorbing shutters, is topped with a dome.
The church also houses a beautiful white marble statue of the Virgin that is perhaps the work of a Grenoble sculptor from the 16th century.
The stained glass windows, created in 1925 and 1934, present two very different styles.
Created by the French organ maker Bartoloméo Fromentelli, it includes 61 stops et 4600 pipes.
The large oculus above the entrance is an original element of the main façade and features at the same time a stained glass window and the church clock.
Grande Chartreuse monastery in 1084, the church opened for worship in 1879.
Its construction was not without administrative and financial difficulty, despite a 100,000 francs donation from the Chartreuse fathers in 1867 to help finance the construction. After several changes to the initial architectural plans, estimation problems, and disagreements with the city, no fewer than four architects, one after the other, would work on the construction.
They were Anatole de Baudot, Alphonse Durand, Eugène Péronnet, and Alfred Berruyer. The latter, promised, in 1875 to « rework the church plans, making the effort to return to the simple and harmonious lines of the initial project, all the while smoothening the transition with the the already completed parts."
The bell tower, 67 meters high, became the highest building in the city.
The interior, of beautiful neo-Roman architecture, was recently restored. The choir houses two paintings by Dauphinois artist Jules Flandrin, that depict two scenes of the life of Saint Bruno.
Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jeanne de Chantal upon the insistence of the noble ladies of Grenoble, the convent of Sainte Marie d'en Haut was the fourth convent of the visitation in France.
The groundwork was laid on Oct. 19, 1619 in the presence of Christine of France, Louis XIII's sister.
Contemplative nuns mostly born into noble families, the Visitadines also welcomed and educated the young women of Grenoble's and the Dauphiné's upper society. The convent already had 60 nuns in 1647 and never lacked vocations.
A second convent of the Visitation, named Sainte Marie d'en Bas, would be created in the city during the middle of the 17th century, this one closer to the bishopric.
Suppressed in 1792 and transformed into a prison the following year, the convent of Sainte Marie d'en Haut, would later become the property of the city of Grenoble.
The congregation of the Sacred Heart settled here after the French Revolution.
From 1851 to the official separation of the Church and State in 1905, the Ursulines occupied the convent.
They dedicated themselves to educating and training young women from modest and poor families.
During World War I, the convent became military barracks and housed up to 450 soldiers.
The chapel, a classified historical, was then closed and protected.
From 1920, many families of immigrant workers from southern Italy-up to 150-occupied the buildings.
These families were relocated throughout the city at the beginning of the 1950s.
the Olympic Games of Grenoble in February 1968, it was decided to install the vast collections of the Dauphinois museum in the former convent and to create large exhibition rooms.
With this in mind, all of the buildings were magnificently restored, back to their original state, whenever possible and keeping in mind the convent's new vocation. A new entrance to the museum was also created.
The original main entrance of the convent, with its courtyard opening directly onto the Chalemont stairs, was deemed rather inconvenient.
The chapel of Sainte Marie d'en Haut is no exception. The walls and the vaulted ceilings are entirely covered in murals commissioned in coordination with the beatification and canonization ceremonies of Saint Francis de Sales in 1662 and 1666.
The medallions depict scenes from the life of Christ, the Old testament, and the life of the Virgin Mary.
An original trompe l'œil painting showing drapes and a book set on a balustrade decorate the triumphal arch at the entrance to the choir.
The chapel has conserved its magnificent reredos of gilded wood, sculpted by Nicolas Chapuis in 1662 and donated by François de Bonne de Créqui, third duke of Lesdiguières and governor of the Dauphiné.
The niches of the reredos house the statues (which are not originals) of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Augustine.
The choir still features the grill that separated the sanctuary from the nuns' choir, which is perpendicular to the chapel.
The Vistadines never saw the reredos and the alter other than from the side. This prevented them from being seen and from seeing the lay people who attended mass.
The little side chapel, also entirely painted, features medallions depicting various scenes from the life of Saint Francis de Sales.
After having housed the city's architectural department in 1921, the former chapel had become a movie theatre, and then, at the beginning of the 1970s, was transformed into a creative training center, the Rio Theater.
A second floor was created inside the theatre, cutting the former chapel into two levels. The nuns' choir was even transformed into a dance hall after the Second World War.
Glénat publishing house, wished to restore and bring this piece of religious heritage back to its original splendor.
The convent was founded November 22, 1624, feast day of Saint Cecila, by the Bernadine nuns Thérèse de Buissonrond and Louise Borel de Ponsonnas, who later became the convent's first mother superiors.
The convent was constructed at the beginning for the first half of the 17th century.
The Bernadinces were reformed Cistercians who had chosen to go back to the original rules of monastic life, which were very strict.
They got their name from the great reformer Bernard de Clairvaux, whose spirituality was strongly marked by repentance. Fourteen Bernadine nuns were living in the convent when it was suppressed in 1792.
With the restoration, the convent reverted to its original design: the vestibule leading to the parlour with its ancient grills and the niche that once housed a charity tower are once again visible.
The upper parts of the stone gateway, which face the street, were reconstructed following the ancient model. This gateway once again leads to the chapel via an open air courtyard, just as it did in the past.
The chapel was also restored, including its beautiful entranceway with niche, pediment, entablature, and pots à feux as well as the oculus just above. A copy of an ancient Dutch door with a solid walnut wood transom was crafted by a company specialized in such creations.
Seven halo-shaped chandeliers light up the old nave which regularly hosts exhibits, conferences, and seminars. The Glénat publishing house opens the chapel during the week, giving the public free access to the area. The room perpendicular to the chapel and that used to be the Bernadines' choir is now a restaurant dining room.
Other parts of the former convent, such as the remarkable stairway of honor with its four flights and wrought iron banisters or the cloister with its fountain and gardens illustrating the four seasons, are only accessible as part of a guided visit.
Adjacent to the former Jesuit college which is today Stendhal middle and high school, the former Jesuit chapel of Grenoble has conserved its beautiful facade made of Sassenage and Echaillon stone.
The façade wasn't built until the beginning of the 17th century, whereas construction of the chapel itself began in 1660 and finished in 1666 thanks the the financial support of Louis XIV and of the Dauphinois lords.
The façade, with its Corinthian capitalled pilasters, its triangular pediments, its niches, and voultes framing the upper floors, is characteristic of 17th century religious buildings, directly inspired by the facade of the church of the Gesù in Rome.
Until the French Revolution, the niches held statues of the four Evangelists and of the saints Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier, founders of the Society of Jesus. These statues were sculpted by Grenoble sculptor Guillaume Bernard.
The interior, partitioned into several sections in the second half of the 19th century, was restored to its original proportions during a restoration campaign led by the architect Jacque Scritori. A beautiful floral border which runs around the chapel was also accentuated in order to be better appreciated.
One of the original doors and two tribunes with stone balustrades are also visible. The former chapel today houses the documentation and information center of the establishment.
The buildings of the ancient college were built in the years 1660/1680. Founded in 1651, the Jesuit college was first housed in temporary buildings.
The court of honor has conserved a beautiful door with a wide sculpted leaf.
The stairway of honor still conserves its exceptional solar clock, created in 1673 by the Jesuit father Bonfa.
In 1638, she obtained the bishops permission, as well as that of the parliamentary consuls.
However, it wasn't until 1647 that the convent of Sainte Marie d'en Bas was officially founded. The convent took up residence in a district house in the Très Cloître.
From 1652 to 1659, the Visitadines acquired several other neighboring houses.
In 1675, at the bishop of Grenoble Le Camus' behest, they had a dwelling complex built with a mansard roof, cloister gallery, and grand stairway with a stone balustrade.
For many years, the convent's chapel remained a provisional structure, and was in very bad condition in the second half of the 18th century.
In 1783, the Visitadines had a new church built following an original floorplan. It was consecrated Feb. 23, 1786
Indeed, the nuns' choir is built in line with the chapel, behind the alter. This is a unique layout in French Visitation convents, but is more commonly found in Italy. This meant that the alter had to be double-sided, with one side facing the nave and the other facing the chapel.
The remarkable interior decoration of the chapel made the structure one of the most elegant at the time of Louis XVI's reign over France.
The ionic columns are linked by a laurel leaf garland. A border of intertwined garlands runs around the chapel.
The diagonal ribs of the vaults are designed to resemble "bundles of sticks tied together with ribbons."
The alter, made with several different colored marbles, was of great value.
As was the case with all of the furniture, it disappeared at the beginning of the Revolution.
The domestics' quarters, apartments for retiring ladies, the decoration storage room, treasury, and archives were all located above the choir.
Comme tout le mobilier intérieur, il a disparu au début de la Révolution.
In 1903, the convent buildings were destroyed. Only the chapel survives today and in 1906, it housed the first Dapuphinois museum.
This museum was transfered in 1968 to the former Sainte Marie d'en Haut convent. Today, the chapel of Sainte Marie d'en Bas houses the theatre of the same name.
In 1739, the Brotherhood of Mercy joined that of the White Penitents, which carried out missions of forgiveness and mercy for prisoners and those condemned to death.
Completely integrated in the alignment of the street's buildings, the entrance to the chapel is discreet. The street-side façade actually corresponds to a building complex that houses various rooms used by the Brotherhood. The chapel itself is at the back of the building lining the street.
In the 19th century, the complex was used by the Society of Christian Charity dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul then by the congregation of the Salette fathers, and then by the brothers of the Christian schools.
The chapel was redone in 1900-1901 by Monsignor Henry, bishop of Grenoble, who transformed it into the seat for the work of the restorative Adoration. Despite the changes, the chapel has always kept its imposing 17th century reredos made of sculpted wood and a marble alter with elegant angel heads and rose garlands carved into it.
The chapel also houses beautiful wooden stalls from the 15th century, which were originally located in the former Cisterican convent in Crolles.
The former chapel of the Penitents is also used for services by Grenoble's Russian Orthodox community.
The original self-supporting hyperboloidal roof, crowned with a bronze lacework capital had to be entirely rebuilt in 1979, after leak problems began deforming the timber work.
The new roof is crowned with a large skylight made of 9 bay windows and a cross at the top, reaching 27 meters in height.
The nave, in the shape of a 5 meters high raised basin, is supported by 18 reinforced concrete pillars. The dome supporting the alter is shaped like and upside down cone and indicates the presence of a chapel on the lower level built of rough concrete.
The inside houses a brightly colored icon of Christ on the cross, copied from an 13th century original. A parish member, Alain Plotard, created the copy. The baptismal font, made of carved stone, dates from the antique period.
After the Second World War, the rapid expansion of the city made it necessary to create new parishes.
Starting in 1954, the diocese of Grenoble launched several church construction projects.
These new churches had to follow the fashion of the times, which was that of new shapes and concrete constructions.
The sanctuary, with the altar, remains the main area of decorative expression.
But simplicity and sobriety are no obstacle to the architectural originality characterizing many of Grenoble's new churches.
Saint Luke church, built in 1967 in the middle of the Ile Verte neighbourhood, is a perfect example.
Built in a densely-populated area, it was decided to build the parish church on the same land as an apartment building, the church being below and the apartment building being above.
The originality of the architectural project resides in the fact that Saint Luke remains a complex, idependant structure. It has its own roof and and an entirely different architectural design, most notably with its large windows.
Part of the supporting structures of the apartment building cross the church roof for more effective support.
Inside, a beautiful depiction of the Last Supper hangs behind the altar, along with two pulpits depicting wheat stalks and an ox, symbols of Saint Luke.