Visiting Boulogne-sur-Mer, France: with its Cathedral a looming presence over land and sea
The Cathedral at Boulogne-sur-Mer, situated in the Pas de Calais department of northern France, is a monumental, looming presence over the city itself. But, with its huge dome and with the cliff that characterize the locality's sea-front, it can also be seen from a long distance out to sea (as I saw it, while travelling by sea to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer)(1).
An original church building is said to have been founded in 1090; it was subsequently enlarged. This structure did not survive the French Revolutionary period.
In 1827 work began on a new Cathedral building. This was formally completed and inaugurated in 1866. A striking feature of this edifice is the large cupola which towers above the city.
The moving spirit behind this enormous, 19th century building was self-taught architect Monsignor Benoît-Agathon Haffreingue (1785-1871). The design was based on St. Peter's Basilica, Rome and St Paul's Cathedral, London, England.
The Cathedral has the status of a basilica. It is particularly noted for the size of its crypt.
Interestingly, many centuries ago, the local inhabitants of the Boulogne-sur-Mer area spoke an early form of Dutch, rather than Medieval French. In the course of the Middle Ages, however, the Romance (i.e., Latin-based) / Germanic language boundary moved gradually eastward. The Dutch name for 'Boulogne' is 'Bonen'.
In France, the words '-sur-Mer' are added to the place name 'Boulogne' in order to differentiate the northern French city from Boulogne, situated near Paris, itself often referred to as 'Boulogne-Billancourt', for the same reason.
(1) Indeed, the cathedral's builder is said to have wished for the structure to be visible on a clear day from England.
Also worth seeing
In Boulogne-sur-Mer itself, other, noted buildings include its 11th century belfry; a Medieval castle, the foundations of which date from Roman times; a large, public aquarium also attracts many visitors.
The cliffs at Cap Gris-Nez (distance: 25 kilometres) and nearby Cap Blanc Nez are major geological features and landmarks.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Boulogne-sur-Mer : 253 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains a service between Paris (Gare du Nord) and Boulogne-sur-Mer. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may also be of interest
- Visiting the Old Town of Calais, France: memories and architecture from centuries past
- Visiting Oost-Cappel (approaching from France) or Oostkappel (approaching from Belgium): scene of hi
- Visiting Dunkirk, France: city of magnificent Flemish belfries
- Visiting Lille, France: birthplace museum of General Charles de Gaulle
- Visiting Bruges, Belgium: dizzyingly high towers and powerful, Medieval memories
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