Bourges Cathedral: an UNESCO WHS Review
The site of the cathedral served as the city’s main church all the way back to Carolingian times (714-1124) and maybe even further back to the founding of the bishopric, proposedly by saint Ursin in the 3th century.
It is not known when the construction of the current cathedral began, but documents suggest somewhere around 1194. The building was completed in different steps and finally consecrated in 1324. Due to structural problems with the South tower, an adjoining buttress tower was built in the 14th century. Probably due to similar problems the North tower collapsed in 1506, afterwards it was rebuilt in a more contemporary style.
Review of Bourges Cathedral
Read more about how we rated Bourges Cathedral and other sites at our UNESCO World Heritage Site Review.
The cathedral of Bourges is a highpoint of Gothic architecture. The stone work on the front façade is especially beautiful and intricate. When the light hits the original stained-glass windows, they come to live and add to the spiritual atmosphere of the place. The rest of the interior is restrained and simple with a 37m high nave that inspires awe.
Bourges cathedral is an excellent example of Western-European Gothic architecture. What makes it especially unique is the fact that the building survived through all the ages relatively undamaged. Therefor all but one of the stained-glass windows date back to 1215. But similar buildings can be found in France, not that far from this one. Four other great examples are the cathedrals of Chartres, Amiens, Reims and the Notre-Dame in Paris.
The cathedral gets its fair share of visitors, but its far less crowded than similar Gothic cathedrals elsewhere. This leaves more room for silent contemplation and admiration here. Guided tours are available, but only in French. You can visit the tower which provides magnificent views of the town and the surrounding area.
The site is wheelchair accessible except for the tower with its 396 steps. Tours for the visual impaired are available by appointment.
Value for money:
The entrance fee is €8.00; the visit will take you between 30-60 minutes. This gives you reasonably good value for money.
Bourges lies along the A-71 highway and has a train station with trains to Paris and other cities. There are also various bus connections available. The cathedral is 15 minutes by bus from the station or 25 minutes on foot which takes you through the old town. It’s an easy daytrip from the popular Loire Valley. But it is further afield from Paris than the cathedrals of Reims, Amiens and Chartres.
Overall rating: 3.5
Bourges cathedral is a beautiful building which provides a decent visitors experience. There are other comparable cathedrals in the country and this one is a bit further away from the main tourist itineraries. Definitely worth the visit when you are in the area or are interested in gothic architecture. This all results in an overall score of 3.5 out of 5.
Also read our review of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Himeji Castle.