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Visiting the Cathedral of St.Paul, Liège, Belgium: replacing a previous Cathedral destroyed by 18th century secularists

Updated on August 3, 2012
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Nave and transept of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Liège
Nave and transept of the Cathedral of St. Paul, Liège | Source
Cathedral Square, Liège
Cathedral Square, Liège | Source
Cathedral of St. Paul, Liège
Cathedral of St. Paul, Liège | Source
Map location of the Liège area
Map location of the Liège area | Source

A Medieval masterpiece of architecture

The Cathedral of St. Paul (French: Cathédrale Saint-Paul ), Liège, in the Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ) of Belgium, is not the first church building to be designated a Cathedral in the city. Until the 18th century, the building dedicated to St. Lambert was known as the Cathedral.

However, after the French Revolution and the sweeping influence of secularism, backed by the force of arms, the previous Cathedral was destroyed. Interestingly, it was even decided to dignify this process of destruction by the establishment of a commission to coordinate such efforts: the Commission for the Destruction of the Cathedral (French: Commission destructive de la cathédrale ). This achievement was thus implemented.

However, when later things had settled down somewhat, it was decided that Liège needed to have another church building designated as its Cathedral, to replace the one destroyed by late 18th century secularists. By 1812, the choice had thus fallen upon the church of St. Paul, in what is today the Downtown area of the city.

The church of St . Paul actually dates from the 10th century, in terms of its foundation, and much of its structure is from the 13th and 15th centuries. It is interesting to note that it was French Emperor Napoleon I that was responsible for the instruction for the distinctive bell tower to be built. (As if he had felt a pang of remorse for the previous excesses of his radical secularist compaitriots in destroying Liège's previous Cathedral?)

The style of the Cathedral is Rayonnant and Brabantine Gothic. The intricate vaulting at the nave and the cloisters is particularly striking. The building contains some considerable examples of sculpture and other religious art, some of which originated in other churches destroyed at the French Revolution.

Prior to the elevation of the church's status to that of a Cathedral, the building was known as a Collegiate Church (French: Eglise collégiale ). This designation was shared by several other church buildings in the city.

The Cathedral Square joins onto a now pedestrianized area of Downtown Liège. The Square has long been popular as a meeting place and a rallying point for various kinds of public demonstrations. While the previous Cathedral was once a focal point for secularist disaffection, the backdrop of Liège's current Cathedral is thus a conscious or unconscious presence for demonstrations on behalf of many a radical cause in the city.

July 29, 2012

Also worth seeing

In Liège , visitor attractions include: the Perron steps; the Bueren Mountain; other fine examples of ecclesiastical architecture; the former Prince-Bishops' Palace;the Fragnée Bridge; the Zénobe Gramme Monument; and many others.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Liège : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Liège . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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