St. Die gets its name, by the corruption of Dieudonne, from St. Deodatus, who founded a monastery here in the seventh century. It was built, as was many another great cathedral, in accordance with the custom of erecting a church over the body or relic of a saint whom it was especially desired to honour; usually one of local importance, a patron or a devotee.
The town is perhaps the most inaccessible and ” out-of-the-way” place which harbours a cathedral in all northern France. We might perhaps except St. Pol-de-Leon and Treguier in Brittany, neither of which is on a railway, whereas St. Die is, but at the very end. When you get there and want to go on, not back, you simply journey on foot, or awheel if you can find a conveyance, and take up with another ” loose end ” of railway some fifteen miles away, which will take you southward, should you be going that way. If not, there appears to be nothing for it, but to retrace your steps whence you came.
The cathedral (locally ” La Grande Eglise,” it only having been made a cathedral so recently as 1777) has a fine Romanesque nave of the eleventh century, with choir and aisles of good Gothic, after the accepted Rhine manner of building.
The portal, of red sandstone, is of inferior thirteenth-century workmanship, with statues of Faith and Charity on either side. The facade is flanked by two square towers.
The interior is curiously arranged with a cordon of sculpture, high in the vaulting. The capitals of the pillars are likewise ornamented with highly interesting and ornately sculptured capitals. The choir, as is most usual, is the masterpiece of the collection, the windows, in particular, being of the purest ogival style.
In the first chapel, on the right, is a painting, ” The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian,” and behind the choir is an ancient work commemorative of “Le Peste de St. Die.”