Boulogne-Sur-Mer is one of those neglected tourist points through which the much travelled person usually rushes en route to some other place. It perhaps hardly warrants further consideration except for the history of its past, and its intimate association with certain events which might seriously have affected the history of England. It is, however, an interesting enough place today, if one cares for the bustle and rush of a seaport and fishing town, – not very cleanly, and overrun with tea-shops and various establishments which cater only to the cockney abroad, who gathers here in shoals during the summer months. There is, too, a large colony of resident English, probably attracted by its nearness to London, and possibly for purposes of retrenchment, for there is no question but that the franc, of twenty per cent. less value than the shilling, accomplishes quite as much as a purchasing power. This must be quite a consideration with pater-familias with a limited income derived from Consols or some other traditionally ” excellent investment.”
Most travellers are familiar with what attractions Boulogne really does offer, but few if any would consider its very modern and ugly cathedral one of them.
Perched in the centre of the Haute-Ville, overlooking the city and port, the Cathedral of Notre Dame exists today more as a monument to the energy and devotion of its founder than as a notable architectural work. It follows no particular style, except that it is Italian of the most debased general type, though no doubt parts of it meet the dimensions and formulas laid down by accepted good examples in its native land. There is no doubt but that its domed cupola is manifestly out of place, though this detail is the only feature which gives the cathedral any distinction.
A Gothic church stood here up to the Revolution, and the building of the present structure was devotedly undertaken to replace its loss by a doubtless earnest man, who, in his zeal, sought to build after what he considered
a newer if not a better style. Parts of the crypt are of the ancient twelfth century church; but the structure above dates from 1827–66.
Its facade, of a poor classical order, is flanked by two slight cupola towers equally meaningless and insignificant. Surmounting the central dome is a colossal statue of the Virgin.
The interior is in no way remarkable or interesting. There are a few monuments and a gorgeous high altar of precious marbles, mosaic, and bronze, the gift of Prince Alex Torlonia. The lady-chapel is still resorted to as a place of pilgrimage by the seafaring and fisher folk of the neighbourhood.
A modern reproduction of a sarcophagus from the catacombs at Rome forms the tomb of Mgr. Haffreingue (1871).