Bourges Tourist Attractions

Cathedral of St EtienneCathedral of St Etienne

The old ducal city of Bourges, now chief town of the département of Cher, the see of a bishop and a university town, lie at the confluence of the Yèvre and the Aveyron in the fertile province of Berry, which claims to be the heart of France. In addition to its famous cathedral it preserves many remains of its past, including old palaces and burghers' houses.

Cathedral of St Etienne

On the east side of Rue Moyenne in Bourges is the Cathedral of St-Etienne, one of the most splendid of French cathedrals. It was built in two stages, the apse and choir (over an undercroft) between about 1195 and 1215, the nave and west front between 1225 and 1260. The magnificent west front, flanked by massive towers has five doorways with rich sculptural decoration and a beautiful 14th century rose window. In the tympanum of the central doorway is a fine representation of the Last Judgment. A fire in 1986 caused considerable damage.
The original north tower collapsed in 1506 and was rebuilt in Flamboyant style; from the top there are fine views. The south tower, which was given added support by a massive buttress in the early 14th C, is of severer form and was left unfinished.
The cathedral is entered through the Romanesque south doorway, over which is a figure of Christ in Majesty, surrounded by the symbols of the four Evangelists. On the central pier is Christ in the act of blessing (13th C). The nave is flanked by double aisles, of different heights; there is no transept. The great glory of the interior is the 13th C stained glass in the ring of chapels round the choir. In front of the central chapel are kneeling figures of Duc Jean de Berry and his wife (century 1425).
Bourges Cathedral (St-Etienne) - Floor plan map Bourges Cathedral (St-Etienne) Map

Bourges Cathedral - Gothic Crypt

The Gothic crypt of the cathedral in Bourges is the marble tomb of Duke Jean (c 1430), originally part of a large mausoleum. On the floor is incised the design of the rose window on the west front, which was evidently put together here.

Hôtel de Ville

In Bourges, on the south side of the cathedral is the former Bishop's Palace (16th C), now the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). Adjoining is the beautiful Jardin de l'Archevêché, probably laid out by Le Notre in the 17th C. At the south end of the gardens is the Maison de la Culture (House of Culture), with a piece of sculpture by Alexander Calder in front of it.

Museum of Decorative Arts

In Bourges, to the north of the cathedral is a handsome 16th C merchant's house, the Hôtel Lallemant, now occupied by the Musée d'Art Décoratif. The collection includes furniture, tapestries and pictures, mainly of the 17th C. The former residential apartments and chapel have fine coffered ceilings. On the chimneypieces are the heraldic emblems of Louis XII (a porcupine) and Anne de Bretagne (an ermine).
Address: 6 rue Bourbonnoux, F-18000 Bourges, France

Hôtel Cujas

In Rue des Arènes, on the west side of old town Bourges, is the Hôtel Cujas, a fine Renaissance mansion (c 1515) which now houses the Musée du Berry (prehistoric and Roman remains, folk art and traditions).
Address: 4 rue des Arènes, F-18000 Bourges, France

Palais Jacques Coeur

In Bourges, southeast of the Hôtel Cujas is the Palais Jacques Côur, a palace built on the remains of the Gallo-Roman town walls in 1443-1453 by the royal treasurer Jacques Côur. His heraldic device, a heart (côur) and a scallop- shell (coquille St-Jacques), recurs all over the building. The palace, picturesquely grouped round a courtyard, is one of the finest examples of a Gothic mansion built by a member of the prosperous middle class. In the courtyard, which is partly surrounded by arcades, are three richly decorated staircase towers leading to the upper floors.
In the Great Hall are fine pieces of 15th and 16th C sculpture, including 10 weepers from the tomb of Duc Jean de Berry. The chapel has colorful ceiling paintings of 1488. In spite of the absence of furniture the rooms, with their richly decorated chimneypieces and doors, give a good impression of the living conditions of a prosperous 15th century household.
Address: 10 bis rue Jacques Côur, F-18000 Bourges, France

Notre-Dame

The church of Notre-Dame, to the north of Bourges old town, was built in the 15th C and, after being destroyed in a great fire in 1487, rebuilt in 1520-1523. It thus illustrates the transition from Gothic to Renaissance style.
To the south of Notre-Dame, is the Hôtel Pelvoisin (15th-16th C), said to have been occupied by the master builder who built the cathedral.

Hôtel des Echevins

In Bourges, southeast of the church of Notre-Dame is the Hôtel des Echevins (late 15th C), the meeting-place of the town's mayor and magistrates, with a beautiful courtyard.
Notable features are the octagonal staircase tower in Flamboyant style and the Renaissance gallery, built only 20 years later.
The house is now occupied by the Musée Maurice-Estève (20th C painting and graphic art).
Address: 13 rue Edouard Branly, F-18000 Bourges, France

International Music Festival

This annual week-long festival runs from late April to early May. Over 130 artists perform contemporary music on 13 stages.
Address: Le village public / Espace les ailes bleues, F-18000 Bourges, France

Surroundings

Château de Bois-Sir-Aimé

10km/6miles south of Bourges are the ruins of the Château de Bois-Sir-Aimé, in which Charles VII's mistress Agnès Sorel lived. Beyond this, on the road to St-Amand-Montrond, is the Château de Meillant (late 16th C), which resembles one of the Loire Châteaux in its architecture and sumptuous decoration.

Abbaye de Noirlac

Southwest of Bourges, on the right bank of the Cher, is the Cistercian abbey of Noirlac (restored), which was rediscovered by Prosper Mérimée in 1838. The abbey, which was founded in 1150, is one of the best preserved examples of Cistercian architecture with an arcaded cloister dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. The large dormitory was divided into separate cells in the 17th C.

Noirlac - Summer Festival

The Noirlac Summer festival is an annual two month event that runs from mid-June to mid-August and includes a variety of program. Events include classical, sacred and medieval musical concerts, visual arts exhibitions, religious ceremonies and social gatherings in the Noirlac Abbey.
Address: 5 rue de Seraucourt, F-18000 Bourges, France

St Amand-Montrond, France

South of Bourges, in the Cher valley, is the little town of St-Amand-Montrond, in an area where the famous white Charolais cattle are bred. In the southeast of the town is the Romanesque church of St-Amand (12th C). 16km/10mi north are the ruins of a 14th C castle which belonged to Duc Jean de Berry.

Chateau de Meillant, Meillant, France

Chateau de Meillantis a particularly impressive example of medieval romanticism, a masterpiece in pomp and circumstance, with a great abundance of engraved banners, fleur-de-lys and coats of arms. The first signs of Renaissance architecture can be seen in this castle's construction.
The interior of Chateau de Meillant possesses rare and valuable furnishings of Italian style. Of exceptional note is a collection of Italian-made medallions featuring the heads of Roman emperors.

Domaine de George Sand, Nohant-Vic, France

6km/4mi north of La Châtre is Nohant, with a small Château in which the novelist and feminist George Sand (1804-1876) was brought up and lived for many years. There is a small George Sand Museum in the keep of the old castle of La Châtre.

Sancerre, France

50km/30mi northeast of Bourges is the old-world little town of Sancerre (pop. 2,500), picturesquely situated on a hill in rolling country. An old defensive tower (1509) now serves as the belfry of the church of Notre-Dame. In the park surrounding the Château is the Tour des Fiefs, a 14th century keep which is all that remains of a castle of the Counts of Sancerre.
On the first weekend in May is the Fête du Crottin de Chavignol which is held in the Caves de la Mignonne in Sancerre. There is also a fair at the same location on Whitsun weekend. The Foireaux Vins de France also takes place in the Caves de la Mignonne on the last weekend of August.
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