Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Tournai
The five towers of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame are visible from afar above the roofs of Tournai. The cathedral is the jewel of the town, the most important ecclesiastical building in Belgium and one of the best examples of Romanesque in western Europe, the epitome of church architecture in the area of the Scheldt.The present cathedral, a cruciform pillared basilica - the nave and choir are almost equal in length - has a ring of chapels and five towers.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Interior
The three-aisled interior of the cathedral, 134m/340ft long, 66m/217ft wide and 22-23m/72- 75ft high, shows most clearly the architectural development from Romanesque to Gothic.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Nave
The dark, purely Romanesque nave rises in four distinct zones (arcades, balcony level, blind triforium and rose windows) on tall pillars finished with capitals showing human and floral motifs and is, except for the crucifixion scenes by Jordaens in the Chapel of Saint-Louis completed in 1299, relatively simply decorated.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Transept
The transept (1140-1160) adjoining the nave, which reaches a height of 48m/156ft at the crossing, shows in the finer detailed working and in the slender lines of the pillars the transition to Gothic. The transept ends unusually in semi-circular fashion as a kind of two additional choir ambulatories beneath the galleries. Remains of 12th C. frescoes show, on the right, the Heavenly Jerusalem, on the left the Martyrdom of St Margaret. The glass pictures (15th-16th C.) mostly by Arnold of Nijmegen draw their motifs from the history of the bishopric of Tournai.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Rood Screen
A magnificent marble Renaissance rood screen separates the transepts and nave from the choir. It is one of the most important works of Cornelis Floris de Vriendt, made in the years 1570-1573. Representation of biblical scenes is crowned by sculptures of the Virgin, St Eleutherius and St Piat.
Procession of Mary
After a terrible epidemic of plague in 1092 Bishop Radbod inaugurated the great procession of Mary which henceforth has been held every year on the second Sunday in September. During the procession the shrine of St Eleutherius and other items from the church treasury are carried through the streets.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Choir
The three-aisled choir is pure Gothic with light falling on it from the high windows with 19th C. glass. The chapels of the choir ambulatory house valuable paintings of the Dutch-Flemish school; the finest are a purgatory scene by Rubens in the Chapelle-du-Saint-Sacrement, the "Raising of Lazarus" by Pourbus the Elder in the chapel before the entrance to the treasury, and in the central chapel the "Virgin" by Maarten de Vos. Also of interest are a number of tombstones which were damaged by the iconoclasts but all are good examples of the school of sculpture of Tournai. Behind the high altar of 1727 a large marble memorial bears the names of all the bishops and canons of Tournai.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame Treasury
The cathedral treasury, housed in rooms to the right of the choir ambulatory, contains a number of pieces of the first order, the finest of which are two Late-Romanesque reliquary shrines: the shrine of the Virgin (Châsse de Notre-Dame), worked by Nikolaus of Verdun in silver and copper in 1205 and restored in the 19th C., and the shrine of St Eleutherius (Châsse de Saint-Eleuthère) of 1247, a work by Hugo von Oignies created most beautifully with the figures of the apostles, the saint with a model of the cathedral in his hand, and a likeness of Christ in metal. Also very valuable is a Byzantine reliquary cross (sixth/seventh C.) and the manuscript of the Messe de Tournai (1247) the oldest multi-voiced mass of the west. Adjoining the Chapelle du Saint-Esprit is a magnificent pictorial tapestry from Arras (1402) which tells the legend of St Piat and St Eleutherius in 14 scenes.
The "Quatre Cortèges" is held on the second weekend in June, the climax of which is a gigantic procession of historical figures.
A colorful flower market is held along the Scheldt on Good Friday.
Fête des Rois
A fine secular festival is the "Fête des Rois" on the Monday after the feast of the Epiphany with a procession and rabbit feasting.
Map - Cathedrale Notre-Dame
Map of Tournai Attractions