Rodez Cathedral
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Rodez is one of France's lesser known but most interesting gothic cathedrals. Built of a distinctive red-hued sandstone and dating mostly from the 13th-16th centuries it dominates the old hill-top city.

The west facade is one of the most unusual anywhere, rising like a mighty fortress with impregnable, unadorned lower walls, a cliff of bare masonry taking the place of the usual west portal (the cathedral is instead normally entered from the transepts), a result of the facade having once formed part of the former city walls. The confection above of late gothic rose window and gable makes a surreal contrast, as do the lop-sided and somewhat unfinished looking towers.

The main bell tower of the cathedral is bizarrely positioned at the north east corner (where it may have started life as a detached campanile) and like the main facade contrasts fortress-like severity below with an amazingly flamboyant late gothic upper half, richly detailed and finished in the early 16th century and crowned with a mass of pinnacles, buttresses and a statue of Notre Dame de Rodez. The tower is visible over the rooftops from much of the old city.

The remainder of the exterior is relatively plain except for the two transept facades, both with richly decorated portals (sadly now lacking most of their sculptures) and fine rose windows above.

The elegant interior is distinguished by many interesting original features, with outstanding medieval choir stalls, adorned with all kinds of carving and misericords (though like many others in French cathedrals they cannot normally be inspected from close quarters). The 16th century choir screen or 'jube' also survives, but was moved into the south transept in the 18th century to create an unbroken view through the building (few such screens in France survived these changes of taste) where it forms a kind of inner porch. The north transept is filled by the organ in it's attractive early Renaissance casing.

Fine late medieval sculpture survives in the screens and reredoses of two of the chapels on the south side of the nave, with late medieval tableaux of the Entombment and Gethsemane. There are also substantial areas of 13th century wall-painting remaining in the choir aisles.

By contrast little remains of the cathedral's medieval stained glass, though the choir aisles have very recently been enlivened by a striking set of contemporary windows by Stephane Belzere.
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