Auxerre Cathedral Crypt


Below is a view of the central area of the crypt at Auxerre Cathedral. The crypt is the sole surviving section of the cathedral erected between the 1020s and the 1050s. It is noteworthy for 1) its complex plan, including tripartite center section, ambulatory and axial chapel; 2) its large-block, dressed masonry; and 3) its compound piers and continuous impost blocks.


Past studies of the crypt tended to emphasize its clarity of structure. When its plan was drawn in the nineteenth century, it was typically "cleaned up," that is, it was portrayed as being symmetrical with regular spatial divisions. Below is an example of such a plan.


This plan is generalized in order to strike a compromise between the actual state of the crypt and the draftsman's idea of what was intended by the eleventh-century builders. Variations of such plans continue to underlie discussions of the crypt's characteristics.

In 1995 Oliver Juffard surveyed the crypt and produced a new plan. This plan was made by identifying points of transition using a laser theodolite. Since it is based on point locations in 3 dimensions, it represents what actually exists. Therefore, it provides a different starting point for a discussion of the crypt's constructional history. The new plan is shown below.


Juffard's plan, especially when viewed at a larger scale than can be placed on this screen, brings out the many irregularities of the crypt. It also raises questions about how the crypt functioned when it was connected to the original Romanesque cathedral that stood above it, and how the situation changed after that building was replaced by the extant Gothic cathedral in the early thirteenth century. Click here for a pdf version of my 2001 article, "Observations on the Auxerre Cathedral Crypt." Since 2001, Christian Sapin and his team at the Centre d'Etudes medievales in Auxerre have been sytematically studying the crypt.. They have made yearly progress reports. The 2002 report concerns the crypt west wall. The 2003 report concerns the southwest chamber that links the current entryway with the crypt. The 2004 report concerns the wall between this chamber and the central crypt. The 2005 report concerns the south wall between the axial chamber and the ambulatory. The 2006 report concerns the south outer wall of the crypt. The goal of this project is to describe completely the aspect of the crypt with its many adjustments over time.