chapter  10
8 Pages

The Cathedral of Sens

WithWhitney S. Stoddard

Saint-Etienne (Stephen) of Sens is the first cathedral which is Gothic throughout; yet the ambulatory, the earliest part to be constructed, was not designed originally to have ribbed vaults. Many restorations and changes were carried out following the disastrous fire of 1184, which devastated much of the town and damaged the superstructure of the cathedral. The use of ribbed vaulting throughout the cathedral is clearly a new, Early Gothic feature. The ribbed vaulting in aisles springs from articulated piers which establish a diagonal axis. Thus, the Cathedral of Sens combines in a new synthesis the Burgundian elevation with Norman structural innovations. The Sens choir, especially its elevation, is similar to the new choirs of the Cathedral of Canterbury in England, built between 1175 and 1184. After considerable study, William dissuaded the monks from re-using the Romanesque piers and then proceeded to design and supervise the construction of a new cathedral.