Amiens, France: The Cathedral of Amiens and the head of John the Baptist
About Amiens, France:
Amiens is located about 90 miles north of Paris and has one of France’s most magnificent Gothic cathedrals and the largest Cathedral in France. Notre Dame de Amiens is large enough that the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris could easily fit inside.
Construction was begun in 1220 and took only 50 years to complete, an amazing feat for that time.
The purpose of building the Cathedral was to house the head of John the Baptist, which reportedly had been brought back from Constantinople by Wallon de Sarton as he was returning from the Fourth Crusade in 1206. A reliquary was built to house the head of John the Baptist.
Amiens became a place of pilgrimage including French kings, princes and princesses, beginning in 1264 with Louis IX (later to be called Saint Louis). Then came his son, Phillip III the Brave, then Charles VI, and Charles VII.
The head was later lost, but the reliquary today houses a replica of his head.
John the Baptist is somewhat unique in that, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, he has two feast days. We celebrate both the date of his birth on July 24th (because he was the forerunner of Jesus) and the date of his passing from this earthly life on August 29th (normally the Feast Day of a Saint).
Note: there three churches and one mosque all claiming to have the head of John the Baptist.
About the Cathedral in Amiens:
The Cathedral is noteworthy for its architecture and beauty. The cloth industry was one of the keystones of economies in the middle ages, and the chapel here in the Cathedral—the Cloth Chapel–was intended to show off the wealth of the locals. Another of the chapels is dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury.
In addition to these there many works of art…statues and paintings…..and there are plaques inside the Cathedral commemorating the part Australian soldiers played in World War I.
If you are there in the evenings in the summer time there is a free light show that shines lights on the Cathedral and gives a glimpse of what it was like when new. This is something not to be missed if you plan to spend the night in the area.
Traveling to Amiens:
There are frequent trains from Paris Gare du Nord taking about 1 1/2 hours. Caution..there is one night train that stops overnight in Compiegne around 11:30 p.m. and then departs again at 5:40 a.m. Of course, that will save the cost of a hotel room, but just be aware of that if you think it will be a short night-time journey. There is also train service from Brussels (a little over three hours) and other major cities. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here
Address: 30 Place Notre Dame, 80000 Amiens
GPS coordinates: 49° 53′ 40.8768” N, 2° 18′ 3.0528” E
Tel: (+33) 3 22 80 03 41
Click here for the official website of the Amiens Cathedral.