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A stone book
Jewel of the medieval city, the present edifice was constructed between 1220 and 1739 when it became a collegiate church (a church directed by a college of monks and canons).
The Notre-Dame church was mentioned for the first time, in the IXth century, in a list of goods from Flavigny Abbey. Originally, the Notre-Dame church was a priory, meaning that it was dependent on another abbey, Flavigny Abbey, and occupied mainly by Benedictine monks. It explains the presence of a cloister,a fundamental component of abbeys and monasteries. The cloister represents the heart of the abbey.
Between 1154 and 1180, the edifice became both parish and priory church.
Constructed on the site of a small cathedral, Notre-Dame church is a real stone book marked by surprising characters and gargoyles.
Some surprising gargoyles range between the fantastic and the realistic. Look for the snails, lion, pig, monkey, and discover the four evangelists,all from the 15th century, sitting prominently on the balustrade.
Follow the narrow street of Notre Dame and discover the tympanum representing “La legende dorée de l’apôtre Saint Thomas” (“The gold legend of the disciple Saint Thomas”). On top of the tympanum, discover the 12 months of the year represented by agricultural works. This is a real stone calendar, to be read from the left to the right.
Enter the body of church
The stained glass from the medieval age.
In the 15th century, the city became organized around trades and corporate bodies. Each corporate body became more important and wished to possess, inside the church, an altar to celebrate its own patronal feast. Those portraits of the secular life mix with the sacred scenes of the church.
The draper’s chapel is closed by a striking gate made of wrought iron and surmounted by two spikes. The stained glass represents the draper’s job : shearing, washing, preparing the sheets, cutting, carding, weaving, combing.
There is also the butcher’s corporate body, where only two stained glass windows represent the slaughter of an ox and the cooking.
“L’arbre de Jessé”
The origin of the theme of the « Arbre de Jessé » reminds us of the deep-rootedness of Jesus in the people’s history. Jessé is David’s father, and the genealogy of Jesus quoted by Luke and Mathew, the evangelists, point out the entire lineage since Jessé.
“L’Arbre de Jessé” is an ancestor of the family tree. Its model has been firstly used to represent the royal families’ genealogy. The utilization of a family tree for families appears in the 15th century.
“L’Arbre de Jessé”, altarpiece in the Notre-Dame church, painted in 1454 and repainted one century later, in 1554. Only few traces of this painting can be found at Semur-en-Auxois. The altarpiece is divided into three parts : the lowest part which serves as a support, the large painted panel and the canopy.
The entombment : this masterpiece of 1490 has been created by Burgundian sculptors close to Antoine le Moiturier. Observe the sad faces, and the looks avoiding the Christ’s body.
The cloister : Push this little leather door and observe the remains of the cloister from the age when it was a priory or a monastery, under the orders of Flavigny.
The organ : the organ is an incredible and mysterious instrument, where the sounds come from different pipes. It is the only instrument where the musician cannot be seen. It is located in the nave. The organ represents an exceptional alchemy between metal, wood and stone. The organ offers a sound diversity from the high-pitched to the lowest and the softest to the strongest sounds.
Its history. The organ of Semur-en-Auxois is constituted of 35 stops, 3 manuals and 1 pedal. At the end of the 18th century, Joseph Rabiny, using the workshop of his cousin and associate Charles-Joseph Riepp, established an organ of medium size which escaped revolutionary auctions. In 1833, the brothers Callinet greatly enlarged this instrument reusing all the old pipes, creating an organ more adapted to the church size. A hundred years later, Jean-Deloye and Philippe Hartmann help to restore this incredible witness to the classic period. It weighs a bit less than five tons. Six angels are represented on its sides, and two medallions are present on the center, with on one side the Christ and on the other side the Madonna with the writing “stella matutina” (the Aurore star).