- Albi, Carcassonne and Dordogne -

Cahors 1

LINKS to other pages in the Albi, Carcassonne and Dordogne website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

1 : Home Page
2 : Introduction (Hotels etc.)
3 : Albi
4 : Najac
5 : Cordes Sur Ciel
6 : Bruniquel
7 : St Antonin Noble Val
8 : Gaillac Vineyard
9 : Castres
10 : Carcassonne
11 : St Cirq Lapopie
12 : Rocamadour
13 : Sarlat
14 : La Roque Gageac
15 : Cahors
16 : Guest Book:

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CAHORS is situated on an isthmus formed by a loop in the Lot and surrounded by hills The city was founded by the Romans during the first century BCE and called Divona Cadurcorum. The name is thought to commemorate the original sanctuary-town built around the sacred spring of Divona, now known as the Fontaine des Chartreux. The barbarian invasions of the 5th – 8th centuries considerably modified the appearance of Cahors. During the episcopacy of St Didier (636-655), who was considered to be the great rebuilder of Cahors, a strong rampart was constructed which confined the town to the eastern side of the isthmus where the medieval town developed around the cathedral.

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In the 13th century Cahors enjoyed a period of unprecedented expansion following the arrival of bankers from Lombardy and due also to the presence of merchants and businessmen of to international stature - the Caorsins. Their power was displayed in the 13th and 14th century facades of their houses, the large arcades for the shops and workshops and in the fine series of tracery windows on the upper floors (trefoil or with twin bays). Brick was the most commonly used building material. Stone was reserved for the shop arcades and sculptured features.

A native of Cahors, Jacques Dueze, became Pope in 1316 with the name of John XXII. He gave Cahors a a Charterhouse, a University and inaugurated improvements in the river amenities (locks, weirs. mills and the Pont Valentré) and thereby brought a new impetus to the town.

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The Cathedral of St Etienne (St Stephen) was built over several centuries and demonstrates a number of different architectural styles. The nave belongs to the Romanesque building started in 1112. It is made up of two square areas each covered with a 16 metre diameter cupola. These, with their murals, were revealed when a ceiling that had covered them for many years was removed in 1875. The apse dates from the 12th century but was rebuilt between 1285 and 1293. Between 1306 and 1316 the large western tower was built, creating a new facade.

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An organ for the cathedral was built in 1713/1714 by Jean-François l'Epine. The original case, designed by l'Epine and carved in walnut, still accommodates a more modern instrument.

In 1860 Jean-Baptiste Stolz, a Parisian organ builder, rebuilt the organ in the pre-romantic style. In order to accommodate the new instrument the case work was widened and the pipework extended backwards to the wall of the western frontage.

Many famous organists have performed on the organ including César Franck, Charles-Marie Widor and Louis Vierne.

During the war of 1940/45, a Mr Troiseill made further modifications including installing an electric action and increasing range of the speaking pipes by extension to the original ranks. Most of the Stolz pipework was, however, retained.

Further restoration began in 1984 and was carried out by organ builder Gerald Guillemin. During the process frescos dating from the XIVth century were discovered on the western wall. In order that they could continue to be seen a second organ case was added to the rear of the original case.  (The fresco highlighted - below left)

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The visit to Cahors continues on the next page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (lower right).

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