Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, West Facade South Tower Abbey Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, West Facade South Tower
Cioffi, Paul L., 1928-2004
The present Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie Madeleine was built during the 12th C. after the Pope declared that the Benedictine monastery at Vézelay possessed the relics of St. Mary Magdalene, a contemporary and disciple of Jesus Christ, and transformed the church into a magnet for pilgrims and luminaries alike. Sainte-Marie-Madeleine was the site where, in 1146, St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached to launch the Second Crusade. It was at this church where Richard I, the Lionheart and Philippe Auguste set aside rivalries and met to set out on the Third Crusade in 1190. Until 1279, when Angevine King Charles II proclaimed the saint's relics to be in Provence and not in Burgundy, Sainte-Marie-Madeleine and Vézelay flourished. The first building campaign of the Romanesque period erected the choir, transept and, perhaps, part of the nave and narthex; this was consecrated in 1104. Local rebellion provoked by high taxes levied against townspeople by the monastery, and feuds between secular and religious authorities delayed further construction until 112 when a terrible fire broke out in the church, killing a thousand pilgrims and seriously damaging the building. Peter the Venerable, then prior at Vézelay (1120-1122), set about rebuilding the nave immediately; it was dedicated in 1132 and completed ca. 1140. In 1165 the nave burned yet again, and was rebuilt in its present form; the early Gothic choir-which remains to this day-was completed in 1185. An ample narthex-to help accommodate pilgrims-was begun in 1140 and completed ca. 1150. The south tower of the west facade (shown here), known as the Tour Saint-Michel or Saint Michael's Tower, was begun late in the 12th C. and not completed until the 13th. Sainte-Marie-Madeleine is regarded as a masterpiece of the Burgundian Romanesque style and was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. ca. August 1981
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