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Bourges: a majestic Gothic cathedral

Bourges is a town of about seventy-five thousand inhabitants in central France, in the French region of Center-Val de la Loire. Capital of the Cher department, it is located on the Berry Canal, 220 km south of Paris. The city was the capital of the historic region of Berry. The old town is located on a hill on the edge of the plain and is surrounded by the ramifications of the Yèvre and Auron rivers. Bourges was an ancient settlement of the Bituriges Gauls (hence the name of the city), which had their capital Avaricum here. During the Gallic wars it was besieged by Julius Caesar who managed to conquer it by hunger.

The innermost core of the city, with orthogonal streets, corresponds to the original Gaul-Roman settlement, of which parts of the brick row of walls are preserved. In the Middle Ages the city developed on the sides of the hill where the second city wall was erected in the XII century. Bourges was the seat of a viscount and for a short time was the capital of the ephemeral duchy of Berry. From 1100 it was under the dominion of the kings of France. In this period the city of Bourges soon acquired strategic importance and prosperity.

In 1992, UNESCO included Bourges Cathedral on the list of world heritage sites.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: WHAT TO VISIT IN BOURGES

Bourges’ main attraction is undoubtedly the majestic Gothic Cathedral of St-Etienne. Which in 1992 was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It represents one of the purest expressions of French Gothic.

THE GOTHIC CATHEDRAL

The Cathedral of St-Etienne was built, at the behest of Archbishop Henri de Sully, between 1195 and 1255 to enhance the authority of the city archbishops, who were primates of Aquitaine.

The immense cathedral with plan without transept, has a large window and 5 portals, of which the central one, very rich, is carved in the lunette and in the architrave with the Last Judgment (1270).

The interior has five naves, and features an exceptional set of 13th century stained glass windows. Also interesting are the chapels arranged along the external naves including that of Jacques Cœur with a stained glass window from the 15th century.

The crypt contains the tomb of Duke Jean de Berry, the work of Jean de Cambrai from the early 15th century. The Archbishop’s Garden, located at the foot of the cathedral, offers a magnificent view of the monument.

HISTORICAL BUILDINGS

After the Cathedral, the second most prestigious building in the city is the Jacques Coeur Palace, a masterpiece of Gothic civil architecture completed in 1450. This building has an austere facade similar to a feudal castle on the west side, while on the east side it is an elegant urban aristocratic facade.

Other prestigious buildings in the city are: Lallemant Palace, started in 1490 and completed in 1515-1518, is a significant example of the early French Renaissance. Today it is home to the Museum of Decorative Arts (Musée des Arts Décoratifs). Inside it is interesting the chapel of the palace with a magnificent coffered ceiling carved with religious and symbolic motifs.

The Échevins Palace is a flamboyant Gothic-style building erected at the end of the 14th century, it was the municipal seat for three centuries, and today it is the seat of the Estève Museum.

Among the green areas worth mentioning, Les Marais, ancient reclaimed marshes, furrowed by numerous canals, extend over 135 hectares of surface, a stone’s throw from the city center. The Prés-Fichaux Garden, an Art Deco garden, with beautiful fountains, ponds and a rose garden.

MUSEUMS

Among the Bourges museums, the Berry Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (Musée du Berry, Arts et Traditions Populaires), located in the Cujas Palace, houses Gaulromaniac and Egyptian archaeological collections, medieval art and popular arts. The Museum of Decorative Arts (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) of Lallemant Palace houses collections of inlaid or lacquered Chinese lacquer furniture, tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries, art objects, painted from the 15th to the 18th century. While the Estève Museum of Échevins Palace (Musée Estève Hôtel des Échevins) hosts the works of the contemporary painter Maurice Estève (1904-2001). The Museum of the School (Musée de l’école) displays didactic material such as abacuses, desks, chairs, pen holders, blackboards, rulers. Other museums are: the Museum of the Best Craftsmen of France (Musée des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) and the Museum of Natural History (Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle).

TO VISIT IN THE SURROUNDINGS: An interesting excursion to do in the surrounding area is the one along the so-called wine route, an excursion of 170 km, which crosses the countryside and vineyards of Sancerre, Menetou Salon, Quincy, Reuilly, Chateaumeillant and the hills of Gien.

Bourges climate.

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