Notre-Dame Cathedral and Saint-Hugues Church

Cultural heritage : Historic site and monument
Religious heritage, Cathedral

Built in the 13th century, it is part of the bishop's palace - cathedral group along with the Saint-Hugues church and the Baptistery, the remains of which are accessible from the Musée de l'Ancien Evêché.

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The bishopric of Grenoble was therefore created at the end of the 4th century.
The oldest known bishop is Dommin (Dominus in Latin). His name, as bishop of Gratianopolis, appears on the list of members of the Council of Aquileia in 381.
In 379, under the emperor Gratian, Cularo had taken the name Gratianopolis. The city adopted this new name in honour of the emperor who had just made Grenoble a religious capital.

The establishment and strengthening of the power of the Counts of Viennese (Dauphins) in Grenoble from the 11th century onwards was to be the cause of constant conflicts between the two lords. Until the Revolution, however, the bishop bore the title of Prince of Grenoble.

Grenoble Cathedral is an unusual building.
It is a double church system, i.e. two churches built side by side: an episcopal church, Notre Dame, and a second church, Saint Hugues, whose original role is not precisely known.
Was it the bishop's private chapel or more likely a place of training or preparation for the sacrament of baptism? During the Middle Ages, the church of Saint Hugues became the parish church of the old town on the left bank of the Isère.
The double church configuration, characteristic of the early Christian period, is very rarely as well preserved as in Grenoble.

In the second half of the Middle Ages, the cathedral of Notre Dame and Saint Hugues was rebuilt twice: first in the 12th century in Romanesque style, then in the 13th century in Gothic style with the use of brick. From the Romanesque building, the cathedral has kept its portal dated 1140, reworked in the 19th century.
Two capitals are thought to have come from the original Romanesque portal, only one of which remains in place on the right-hand side.
The other, kept in the Musée Dauphinois, has been replaced by a copy. Inside, several remains of the Romanesque building are still visible, including the "Saxon pillar".

At the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century, the massive porch tower was built, which still dominates the Place Notre Dame.
Its base is made of limestone but its upper floors are made of brick.
The porch tower was built in a single campaign and is a perfect illustration of the radical change in the use of materials in the early 1200s and the new taste for brick architecture.

The choir and nave of the cathedral were rebuilt in the mid-13th century.
The presence of the porch tower to the west and the city wall to the east only allowed for a small extension.
The apse of the cathedral and its buttresses were then built directly onto the city wall, making it necessary to build a walkway. On the north side, the cathedral was extended by leaning against the church of Saint Hugh. The space between the two churches disappeared.

The large nave with its brick cross vaults was remodelled at the beginning of the 18th century when the high arched windows were replaced by wide openings. The nave also lost its side galleries around 1860, which now only overlook the second aisle.
The choir is one of the most remarkable parts of the cathedral, as it was hardly altered.
The five-sided apse has retained its original bays with their intricately moulded splaying. On the left side is the bishops' tomb, built in 1407 by Bishop Aimon II de Chissé. Restored after the Wars of Religion and the Revolution, it no longer houses the mausoleum of Cardinal Le Camus, which was moved in the 19th century to the right of the cathedral entrance.

Opposite the tomb, on the right side of the choir, stands the famous gothic ciborium. Built under the episcopate of Siboud Alleman around 1455, this 14.34-metre-high building of white stone painted in red is a veritable lace of stones, and included a tabernacle intended to hold the holy ostia. Unfortunately, it has lost all its statues since the Wars of Religion.
The old high altar, made of white marble with a golden baldachin, was donated by Mgr de Bruillard in the middle of the 19th century.
It is surmounted by a remarkable and precious tabernacle in Carrara marble from 1576, in the shape of a tempietto. It comes from the Grande Chartreuse monastery, which had itself received it from the Charterhouse of Pavia.

Five carved and gilded wooden panels, dated from the 18th century, decorate the walls of the apse. They represent different scenes from the life of Christ.
The stained glass windows were made in 1879. The central one represents Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of the church.
The front choir, where the cathedral chapter and its 18 canons sat until 1790, has been fitted with new liturgical furniture since June 2008.
Exclusive creations by the Parisian architect Jean-Marie Duthilleul, a new altar and ambo in Carrara marble with fine gold gilding, as well as a walnut cathedra, have been installed in the choir.

At the end of the 15th century, a wing of the canons' cloister was integrated into the cathedral, creating a series of chapels in the south aisle. One of these, the former Saint Vincent de Paul chapel, is in the flamboyant Gothic style and has a keystone decorated with a graceful medallion depicting the three divine persons crowning the Virgin Mary in heaven. Four carved swallows surround the scene.
The cathedral was extended around 1500 to the right of the porch tower on the south side. The Gothic portal through which visitors and worshippers enter the church today was built in 1515.

In 1883/1884, an impressive neo-Romanesque facade was erected against the porch tower at great expense, largely made of artificial stone. Designed by the diocesan architect Berruyer with three portals, it was intended to give the building a more classical cathedral-like appearance. After the discovery of the baptistery, this façade was destroyed in 1990 to give Notre Dame a configuration closer to that of the Middle Ages.


Free access

Opening periods

All year round, daily.

Equipments and characteristics

  • Pets refused
  • Accessible for self-propelled wheelchairs


Tramway B stop Notre Dame - Musée

  • Latitude: 45.192808
  • longitude: 5.732058


  • Town location
  • Close to a public transportation
  • Bus stop < 500 m
  • Tram station < 500 m

See also