Langres is reminiscent of but one other cathedral city in the north of France; like Laon, it occupies and fortifies the crest of a long drawn out hill, or, to give it dignity, it had perhaps best be called in the language of the native “de la montagne de Langres,” since from its apex, it is truly dominant of a wide expanse of horizon.
Of the Burgundian transition type, the Cathedral at Langres, dedicated to St. Jean the Evangel and St. Mammes, is in many ways a remarkable architectural work, but contaminated beyond cure by two overbearing Greco Roman towers and a portal of the mid-eighteenth century. As a relief, there adjoins the main body of the church, on the southeast, one of those masterworks of the supreme Gothic era, – a canon’s cloister of an exceeding thirteenth-century beauty. In other respects, the exterior is of little note except as to its wonderful degree of prominence in the general grouping of the roofs of the town, when the city is viewed from below.
The interior spreads itself out in severe and imposing lines with hardly a remarkable feature in either transepts or nave. The organloft, a Calvary, and a marble statue of the Virgin, by Lescornel, a sculptor of Langres, and a few modern sculptured monuments, are the only decorative attributes to be seen, if we except the Renaissance Chapelle des Fonts Baptismaux with its sculptured vaulting on the left.
The symmetrical choir is in itself the true charm of St. Mammes. It has a fine ambulatory, and a range of eight monolithic columns, removed, says tradition, from an ancient Pagan temple. Their capitals are ornamented with carven foliage, grimacing heads, and fantastic animals.
A sixteenth-century screen surrounds the choir, but is more like unto a triumphal arch than a churchly accessory.
The high altar is a comparatively modern work, as may be supposed, and dates only from 1810.
On the right of the choir is an elaborate Roman doorway, and preserved in the Chapter Room are five paintings depicting the “Chaste Susanne.” A remarkable collection of reliques is shown by the sacristan, in the Chapelle des Reliques.