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Beauvais Travel Guide

Episcopal Palace, Beauvais (© Eupedia.com)
Episcopal Palace, Beauvais.

Introduction

Beauvais (pop. 54,000, with suburbs 100,000) is the prefecture of the Department de l'Oise. It is well known for its Gothic cathedral, which beat three world records at the time of its construction.

Paris-Beauvais Airport is the seat of several discount airlines, such as Ryanair, which operates flights to/from Ireland, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, or Wizzair, which has flights to/from Poland and Hungary.


History

Capital of the Bellovaci tribe in ancient times, the Roman knew the place under the name of "Caesaromagus" (Caesar's market) or Bellovacum.

After the division of the Carolnigian Empire in the 9th century, Beauvais became a countship, which around 1013 passed to the bishops of Beauvais, who became peers of France from the twelfth century. At the coronations of kings the Bishop of Beauvais wore the royal mantle and went, with the bishop of Langres, to raise the king from his throne to present him to the people.

In 1346 the town had to defend itself against the English, who again besieged it in 1433. The siege which it suffered in 1472 at the hands of the duke of Burgundy was rendered famous by the heroism of the women, under the leadership of Jeanne Hachette, whose memory is still celebrated by a procession on the 14th of October (the feast of Sainte Angadrême), in which the women take precedence of the men.

Attractions

Medieval towers, Beauvais
Cathedral of Beauvais
Cathedral of Beauvais

The main sight in town is St. Peter's Cathedral. Started in 1225, it was never completed due to funding issues caused by a struggle with Louis IX (Saint Louis).

In 1284, during the construction, the vaulting of the choir collapsed. It was rebuilt doubling the size of the pillars, and completed in 1347. The vaulting of the choir nevertheless reaches 48.5 meters (157.5 feet) in height, making it the highest of any Gothic edifice. The choir also beats the world record in length (47 m).

The Hundred Years' War with England interrupted for the construction for 150 years. The transept was erected between 1500 and 1548. It was then decided to built the tallest tower in the world - no less than 153 meters ! It was built only in 6 years, from 1563 to 1569. But on 30 April 1573, soon after the faithful had congregated to celebrate the Ascension, the spire and three floors of the tower collapse. The tower was not rebuilt and the nave never started.

If the tower still stood today, it would be the second highest in the world, after that of the cathedral of Ulm in Germany (161.5 m), which was only completed in 1890. Let's also note the 13th-, 14th- and 16th-century stained glass windows of the choir, which are particularily remarkable, as well as the astronomical clock (1866) and tapestries of the 15th and 17th centuries.

After the Second World War, scaffoldings were placed on the side of the cathedral due to the instability of the soil, further aggravated by the pumping of the water tables for the construction of an underground car park. Nowadays, the cathedral is still the seat of the Bishop of Beauvais-Noyon-Senlis.

How to get there

Beauvais is at the junction of the A16 motorway, between Paris (80km) and Amiens (60km), and the E46, between Rouen (80km) and Compiègne (60km).

Trains to/from Paris Nord take approximately 1 hour. There is no train connection to Rouen, Amiens, Noyon, Compiègne, Senlis or Soissons. All of them require a change in Paris Nord.

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