Carcassonne > Visit > Basilica
he construction of the first romanesque cathedral in the Cité began in 1096. The stones were blessed by Pope Urbanus II.
The whole building was certainly completed in 1130. The remains of the romanesque choir which were found in St Nazaire's crypt prove that this first cathedral was smaller than the one we see today. After the Crusade and the French conquest, the new masters decided to enlarge the church. They demolished the romanesque choir and transepts and replaced them by gothic constructions.
Romanesque nave
Gothic transept & choir
Radulphe's Chapel
The diocese's relative poverty and a lack of room inside the Cité walls were major obstacles to a total reconstruction. So the aim was to try to harmonise the new gothic parts with the romanesque nave that was still standing. The apse was built proportionately to the nave, respecting its dimensions.

The church was Carcassonne's cathedral until 1803 when the episcopal seat was transferred to Saint Michel in the Lower Town. St Nazaire was given a consolation prize in 1898, and became St Nazaire basilica !

But let's start our visit of the... basilica with a short walk outside. The great portal on the northern side of the nave (protected from violent winds) is the main entry. There is no statue carved in the stones of the central tympanum and the pier. Only the thin columns on the archway shafts are decorated with flowers, leaves, monsters and demons.

The western façade is just a high and flat wall without any ornament. Battlements were added in the bell tower by architect Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, because he thought the church was part of the defence system of the Cité. The fortifications are actually very near.

On the other side St Nazaire's choir is very characteristic of the gothic architecture, with its wide openings, its pinacles, gables and gargoyles that are looking at you !!!

The contrast with the romanesque style is blatant !

Beyond the choir stands the tiny Radulphe's Chapel, a true miracle of the Gothic !
We enter the Basilica passing under this northern porch. The nave was built in a pure romanesque style : cradle vault, redoubtable and massive cylindrical pillars with sculptured capitals and no window. The only openings are those small "oculi" (round windows) on the western wall, which let penetrate thin rays of light into the church. The first romanesque catherdal was certainly very dark !

St Nazaire's organ is generally considered as the oldest one in France. It was already here in the 16th century. It underwent many restorations and enlargements since then.

Every sunday afternoon from June to September free concerts are performed by organists coming from all over the world.

On the north side aisle, the Rochefort's Chapel is a masterpiece of the 14th century. Bishop Pierre de Rochefort died in 1321, he now rests in this chapel which is one of the most finely sculpted works in St Nazaire : the bishop is standing between two archidiacres and the burial ceremony is represented just at their feet. Splendid !

The transept and the choir date back from the French time, when the conquerors imposed the gothic style coming from Ile de France and Paris. The construction began in 1269, the ensemble was completed in 1330.

The glassworks illuminating the Gothic part of St Nazaire are among the nicest in Southern France.

Saint Nazaire and Saint Celse Basilica is a masterpiece among masterpieces, and if there is a single place you should visit in Carcassonne, it would be this one !!