The beauty of the present Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral has been a frequent theme of admiration with most of the travelers. The Cathedral is remarkable for the uniformity of architectural design which prevails in its plan and execution, for the general magnificence of the structure, for the noble grandeur of the western porch, and above all, for the harmony of its proportions and the symmetry of its details, not always found in the Cathedrals of that period.
Like many other Cathedrals, that of Amiens is too closely surrounded by houses, which substantially obstruct the general view but despite these disadvantages, the appearance of the monument is exceedingly striking.
The present Cathedral Church of Notre Dame, at Amiens, was founded by Evrard de Fouilly, the forty-fifth bishop of this diocese, who was elected in 1211. His object was to provide a suitable depository for the head of St. John the Baptist, a precious relic which the city of Amiens had acquired and for the body of St. Firmin, the first bishop of Amiens, who was the principal cause of the establishment of Christianity in this part of France, and who suffered martyrdom, A. D. 303.
The former church, on the site of which this Cathedral was built, was dedicated, in 1159, to the honor of the Holy Virgin and St. Firmin the Martyr, by Samson, archbishop of Reims.
The bones of St. Firmin were discovered by a miraculous ray of light which shone upon the spot where they were buried, and the authenticity of the remains of the saint was farther proved, not only by a delightful and healing odor which arose from them, but also by a supernatural warmth which dissolved the snow then upon the ground, made the grass grow and the trees put forth their leaves, and, in short, turned winter into summer.
The old Cathedral was destroyed by fire in the year 1218, and the foundation of the present edifice was laid in 1220, Robert de Luzarches being the architect, who furnished the designs.
Bishop Evrard, the founder of the church, died in the year 1222, and the pillars of the nave and choir were completed in 1223. The northern transept was erected in the year 1236.
The whole of the vaulting of the nave and its aisles were completed during the prelacy of Arnoult, bishop of Amiens, from the year 1236 to that of 1247. At the same time, a magnificent stone tower was erected over the center of the cross on the plan. The plan of the Cathedral is that of the Latin cross formed by the nave, choir, and transept, accompanied by vast parallel aisles and surrounded by chapels. The central tower of stone, erected in the time of Bishop Arnoult was destroyed by lightning in 1527.
Bishop Ferry de Beauvoir had sided with the Burgundians and was forced to flee Amiens when King Louis XI regained control of the city. He was first buried in exile in the church of S-Firmin de Montreuil, but his body was brought back to Amiens by his nephew, Adrien de Hénencourt c.1490 in order to rehabilitate his disgraced uncle. The tomb image of the bishop, in full episcopal gear, was intended to be seen in relation to the image of Saint Firmin arriving in Amiens directly above.