Sens Cathedral - Sculpture and Decoration

Sculpture and Decoration

The building is noted more for its solidity than beauty of proportion or richness of ornamentation. The west front is pierced by three portals; that in the middle has good sculptures, representing the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the story of St Stephen. The right-hand portal contains twenty-two statuettes of the prophets, which have suffered considerable damage. Above this portal rises the stone tower, decorated with armorial bearings and with statues representing the principal benefactors of the church. The bells in the campanile by which the tower is surmounted enjoyed immense reputation in the Middle Ages; the two which still remain, La Savinienne and La Potentienne, weigh respectively 15.3 tons and 13.8 tons. The left portal is adorned with two bas-reliefs, Liberality and Avarice, as well as with the story of John the Baptist. The portal on the north side of the cathedral is one of the finest examples of French 16th-century sculpture; that on the south side is surmounted by magnificent stained-glass windows. Other windows of the 12th to the 16th century are preserved, some of them representing the legend of Thomas Becket of Canterbury.

Among the interior features are the tomb of Louis, Dauphin of France (son of Louis XV) and his consort, Marie-Jos├Ęphe of Saxony, one of the works of Guillaume Coustou the Younger, and bas-reliefs representing scenes from the life of Cardinal Antoine Duprat, chancellor of France and archbishop of Sens from 1525 to 1535. The mausoleum from which they came was destroyed in the French Revolution.

The cathedral treasury, one of the richest in antiquities in France, contains a fragment of the true cross presented by Charlemagne, and the vestments of Thomas Becket. The treasury is now kept at a museum.

It was in the cathedral of Sens that St Louis, in 1234, married Marguerite of Provence, and five years later deposited the crown of thorns.

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