Sainte Marie Cathedral, Oloron-Sainte-Marie
UNESCO Heritage List
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Sainte Marie Cathedral of Oloron-Sainte-Marie is listed since 1999 in the UNESCO’s World Heritage along with all the religious monuments on the route to Santiago de Compostella.
It is a monument that combines Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
The cathedral was built starting from the beginning of the 12th century on the order of Gascon IV, Viscount of Bearn on his return from the Holy Land Crusade.
The building was partially destroyed and rebuilt in the 13th and 14th century and was considerably enlarged in the 18th century.
In the 14th century the cathedral was added the chevet (part behind the altar) composed of the ambulatory and 5 radiating chapels. In the 18th century one of these chapels - the Saint Grat - was decorated with 5 exquisite gilt and polychrome wooden panels depicting the scenes from the earth and heaven life of Saint Gratus - the first bishop of Oloron.
The north chapels host the Treasure of the Cathedral consisting of golden and wooden objects as well as liturgical vestments.
The majestic Baroque style pipe organ located above the entrance door dates from 1650.
But the cathedral's most famous part is its carved portal.
The portal is the work of two different artists of the 12th century and includes scene of the crucifixion of Christ sculpted above the main entrance and a series of other sculptures like scenes from the Old - chained men holding a column of the portal - and the New - 24 old men of the Apocalypse - Testaments, a knight on horse crushing an infidel - image evoking the Crusade - as well as scenes of daily local life like salmon fishing, boar hunting and preparations for a béarnaise formal meal.
In the south and east outside of the Cathedral one can see a small cemetery with graves dating from the 3rd century AD.
Hint: after delighting your eyes and spirit with the visit to the Sainte Marie Cathedral take the short 5 minutes walk and visit the Lindt chocolate factory outlet for your taste buds pleasure!