Our 2012 CATHEDRAL QUEST to France Day 9 Paray and Clermont-Ferrand .


Day 9 , Sept 11 

 Cluny to Clermont

We had another good breakfast in our hotel, finished packing and checked out.  TomTom (GPS) led us to the correct roads to Paray.  Most of it was two-lane with a lot of trucks.  Every once in a while there was a section that was four lanes that allowed for passing. 

We arrived in Paray about 10:30 and found the church – the Basilica of Paray - Le -Monial.   It was beside a beautiful little river with roses growing along it banks.  It was a very slow moving river, almost like a canal.  There were ducks swimming and several swans that were honking.

Basilica of Paray-Le- Monial

The earliest recorded mention of what was to become the Basilica of Paray-Le- Monial dates back to the 973 when Lambert, count of Chalon, decided to set up "a pious foundation" in a marshy Valley of dense thickets called "Val d'Or". An agreement was reached with Mayeul, the fourth Abbey of Cluny, to build a first monastery on the hillside. The church was consecrated in 977.

Two years later, the son of count Lambert, Hugues Bishop of Auxerre, took a step that proved to be decisive in the future development of Paray le Monial by donating the monastery to the Abbey of Cluny. In 1090, Hugues de Semur, oversaw the building of both the Abby church of St. Pierre et St. Paul at Cluny (Cluny III) and a new priory at Paray le Monial. Unfortunately he was unable to carry through the latter project to its completion at work was cut short by his death in April 1109. The nave was meant to have at least two extra bays and thus appears too short: it is out of line with the narthex so that the impression is one of a asymmetry where the is façades of the two buildings meet. The church is of much smaller size than Cluny but in all other respects an exact copy. It is now an outstanding example of Burgundian Romanesque design and Cluniac architecture.


In 1470, Jean de Bourbon, the Abbey of Cluny, granted permission to a neighboring nobleman to rebuild Paray's chapel of the south transept in flamboyant Gothic, the style of the period, to be used as the family burial chapel.

  The furniture and the archives of the church were burned in June 1562 during the wars of religion and so we have no record of the events concerning the building between the 12th and 16th centuries

In 1760, the dirt floor was covered with stone paving, which exist to this day as we saw it.

The church has a large very modern chandelier

During the revolution, the building was used as a barn and for storing wine. It was bought by the town in 1794 for the sum of Fr.15,000 and saved from demolition, so therefore the monk's church became the local parish church.

 The church has a rather large narthex (front porch), which was a meeting place, and particular for the catechumens, who were not allowed to enter the church.



The two towers of the northex are different. The south tower, on the right, was built first and is more sober in design. It has windows on three different levels. The north tower is much lighter in style it has wider windows, which are decorated with columns and with sculptured capitals.




The north door is considered as the main entrance to the Basilica. It is the widest and was also the busiest since it was used by the monks. It is also the most decorated of the three portals.



The apse is one of the most beautiful in France. It has three radiating apsidiole chapels, and a unadorned seven window ambulatory.

 The steeple was erected in the 12th century and altered in the 14th century. It was destroyed during the revolution and rebuilt in 1810 with a Gothic story topped by a dome before finally restored in 1860 by its present state by Millet a pupil of Viollet le–Duc. It is an octagonal tower with two series of windows on different levels. A spire on the top of the tower brings the height to 183 feet.  SEE MY MODEL  

 We spend some time looking at the inside, and then walked around to the back which was exceptional in design.

We walked into the cloister where there was a bazaar or fair going on. I wife bought a little bread plate with donkeys.   It was getting close to noon so we found a café near where we parked, and had a pizza and salad.

It was time to leave because we had told my friend, Alain, we would be there in the early afternoon and it was a two hour drive to Clermont- Ferrard.   We did well, except for some showers every once in a while.   We arrived in Clermont-Ferrand a little after three and found Alain’s apartment building without much trouble.

Alain de Bussac is the founder and owner of L’instant Durable, one of the largest paper model companies in the world.  I have almost all of his kits which I have made.  All of the places that we are visiting on this trip are Instant Durable kits.   We have seen L'Instant Durable finished models and kits so far in Fontenay, Vougeot, Cluny, and Paray.   Alain and I have been corresponding fairly regularly for about 5 years.  He has always extended us an invitation to visit him, so we took him up on his invitation.

 His apartment building is on a busy street not far from the cathedral.   We parked in front, rang the door bell and he came to greet us.  He opened a gate between his building and the next, and had us drive up a steep hill to his garage.  Then we took the luggage back down the hill.   His apartment is on the 3rd floor – no elevator.  So we took our luggage up three flights of a circular stairway.   It reminded me of going to see my friend Deiter Marx in Berlin last year.

We met his charming wife, Mariecke.   Alain and Mariecke are about our age and have three children about the same age as our children.  Their apartment was huge and very lovely.  Alain will retire from the management of his company at the end of 2012.

 It started raining after we got there.  When it stopped, Alain wanted  to show us the two churches I have small models of – Notre Dame du Port and the Cathedral.   Kathleen decided she wanted to rest and not climb the steps again.   Alain and I walked to Notre Dame du Port.  Alain does speak a lot of English, but I have a hard time understanding spoken French and don’t speak at all.  He was very helpful in pointing out the features of this beautiful church.



The exact date is not known, but the Notre-Dame-du-Port was probably built in the early 12th century, on the site of several earlier churches. This church became known as the Notre-Dame-du-Port after its location in the market area of town. The 12th-century and were attracted to this church, as it was on the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Clermont is not on a major route to Santiago, but received enough pilgrim traffic for UNESCO to include it in the World Heritage Site called "Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France" in 1998.

The crossing tower fell down in an earthquake in the 15th century and was replaced with the present tower in the late 19th century. The western end of the church was also demolished at some point and rebuilt earlier in the 19th century.

From 2006 to 2008, the interior of the church was fully renovated.

The Church of Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont is a beautiful example of the unique Auvergne Romanesque style. The west facade is extremely plain, as with all churches in the region.

The main exterior interest of the Notre-Dame-du-Port is at the east end, which has been lavished with architectural and artistic beauty. Here the square shoulders of the short transept make a strong contrast with the soft curving lines of the apse and four chapels radiating from the ambulatory.



 Over the south portal, which is not in the transept but next to it in the nave, is an elaborate tympanum carved with biblical scenes and retaining some of its original paint. The sculptures were badly damaged in the French Revolution, but their fine craftsmanship is still apparent. At the top is a semi-circle with Christ in Majesty flanked by two seraphim and the symbols of the Evangelists (only Luke and Mark survive). Under a pediment shape below are scenes depicting the Adoration of the Magi, Presentation of Christ, and Baptism of Christ.

The main part of the interior consists of a central nave with five bays and a high barrel vault and side aisles with a lower vault. The nave is fairly dark, as there is no clerestory and it is lit indirectly by the windows in the side aisles. There are carved capitals throughout the nave, both foliate and figurative. Notable among the latter is one showing a man with a monkey on a leash.

 In contrast to the nave, the choir is brightly lit. Slender columns topped with narrative capitals separate the choir from a spacious ambulatory. One of the capitals is signed by the sculptor, Rotbertus. Each capital is sculpted on all four sides and illustrates a Bible story.

 The ambulatory has a groin vault and opens into four radiating chapels with colorful stained glass windows.




The small crypt under the choir contains a small statue of the Black Madonna that dates from the 17th century but is a copy of a much older Byzantine original. Many pilgrims came to the church in the Middle Ages to view the statue. Have a look at my mini model.


Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral

Then we walked to the Cathedral. It was five after six when we arrived and we couldn’t get in. Alain was able to point out a lot of the exterior features and history.

It is built entirely in black lava stone, which makes it highly distinctive, and visible from a great distance. Its twin  spires are 190 ft.  tall, and tower above the town's rooftops.

In the 5th century, bishop Namatius laid the foundations of the city's first cathedral, allowing the Christian community to leave its ghetto. He dedicated the building to Saints Vitalis and Agricola, whose relics he brought from Bologna. The cathedral was 114 long and on a basilica plan. It was ornamented in marble, with a nave, two parallel aisles, a transept and 70 columns. It was destroyed in 760 by Pepin the Short who, repenting of this act, gave a large sum to bishop Haddebert to finance his reconstruction work, which lasted from 764 to 768. This second structure was again destroyed, this time by the Normans, in 915.

In 1248, inspired by a visit to Sainte-Chapelle on a trip to Paris, bishop Hugues de la Tour decided to launch work on a new cathedral.

Jean Deschamps was entrusted with the work. He had already worked on the cathedrals at Narbonne and Limoges.

 Deschamps worked from 1248 to 1287 on the choir, in which Louis IX came to marry his son (the future Philip III) to Isabella of Aragon. The king financed (maybe for this occasion) part of the stained glass windows that appear to be from the same workshop as those in Sainte-Chapelle. The choir, the transept and the start of the nave were finished about 1295.

Pierre Deschamps took over from his father up to 1325, pushing the works beyond the transept crossing.

 During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries wanted to tear down the church, but the Benedictine Verdier-Latour managed to persuade them that it would be an excellent gathering place for the people. Only the rood screen, choir stalls, altar, statues and furniture were destroyed, though three transept towers were razed. The Romanesque façade was destroyed in 1851, because of the risk of collapseand  restored on the plans  the famous architect, Viollet-Le Duc from 1866 to 1884.

It was not until 1866 that completion works began, built according to the plans of  by his pupil Anatole de Baudot. In 1884, the western façade with its spires and the last span of the nave were finally completed. with full respect for construction methods of the Middle Ages. Only the size of a few of the dry stones shows any difference. A little-noticed detail is that the building was completely painted with lines to imitate masonry and cut stone blocks.  Have a look at my mini-model.

 Our next stop, not far from the cathedral, was Alain's company’s office.  What a pleasure to be in his office.  I am sure I am now going to be the envy of all paper modelers. 


We went back to his home, climbed all of those steps.  Now I know why Alain is so thin!  We had drinks, then a delicious dinner.  Mariecke had prepared duck, wonderful potatoes, then salad, a cheese course and then fruit for dessert.   We spent the night in a lovely bedroom. We had a wonderful visit. Alain has always been very complimentary of my webpage and looks at it often.  What a privilege it was to be a guest in their lovely apartment.



Day 1 - Paris

Day 2 - Sens

Day 3 - Vezelay 

Day 4 - Abbey Fontenay, Semur-en-Auxois, Vezelay -

Day 5 - Beaune

Day 6 - Beaune, Autun, Citeaux, Chateau du Clos Vougeot-

Day 7 - Cluny  

Day 8 - Cluny 

Day 9 - Paray-le-Monial and Clermont-Ferrard

Day 10 - Le Puy-en-Velay 

Day 11 - Avignon 

Day 12 - Avignon to Nimes

Day 13 - Avignon

Day 14 - Marseille

Day 15 - Marseille

Day 16 - Marseille

Day 17 - Marseille to Aigues-Mortes

Day 18 - Carcassonne 

Day 19 - Carcassonne to Toulouse  (posted 10/6/15)

Day 20 - Toulouse

Day 21 - Albi

Day 22 - Toulouse