Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Dennis Aubrey)

While PJ and I specialize in the Romanesque churches, we are fortunate to be able to photograph the great Gothic cathedrals as well. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis was built between 1153 and 1191. Thibaut, the Bishop of Senlis, was a great friend and admirer of Abbot Suger of Saint Denis and constructed his cathedral in Suger’s newly developed Gothic style. The cathedral was built without a transept and featured a single side aisle, four levels in the nave and a magnificent western portal. In PJ’s photo of the nave and transept you can see the alternating strong and weak piers that support the vaulting.

Nave and transept, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Oise) Photo by PJ McKey

Senlis is one of the first generation of Gothic cathedrals that followed Abbot Suger’s Abbey Saint Denis; Laon, Noyon, Sens, and Senlis all commenced construction in the decade of the 1150’s. Like the others in this group, Senlis featured sexpartite vaulting over the nave. In this shot you can see the sexpartite vaulting in the nave and quadripartite vaulting in the transepts, which were built several centuries later.

Crossing and vaulting, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Oise) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The great sturdy side aisles also feature quadripartite vaulting. In this shot we can clearly see the strong and weak piers of the arcades, as well as sense the recent emergence from the Romanesque style.

South side aisle, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Oise) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

By later Gothic standards, Senlis is fairly small – the church is 70 meters long and the nave is 23.5 meters high. Notre Dame de Paris, a mere generation later, has a total length of 127 meters and a nave height of 33 meters. Notre Dame d’Amiens, completed almost exactly a century after Senlis, has a total length of 145 meters and the nave height is an astonishing 42.3 meters.

Ambulatory, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Oise) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The cathedral features a lovely ambulatory around the hemicycle of the choir. This pathway is graced with quadripartite vaulting that allows for the windows that provide such wonderful illumination.

Ambulatory, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Oise) Photo by PJ McKey

PJ and I shot Senlis on our last day of the 2011 trip and it was a fitting send-off. We will return again to shoot some of the details, including the Marian west portal, which we did not have time to photograph last year. Sometimes I think that we omit shooting something important just to have an excuse to return again.

12 responses to “Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Senlis (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. your work is simply astounding. both of you. PJ, that last shot in this series… i feel myself inside the light and the shadow. grateful.

  2. your work is simply astounding. both of you. PJ, that last shot in this series…I feel myself in the light…and the shadow. transported. grateful.

    • Thanks so much, Rose. This project has really become our heart and soul. Thousands of images, hundreds of churches, and years more work to come. And we’re planning the September trip now!

  3. My compliments to your wonderful posting of Senlis cathedral!
    I subscribed to your blob only a few days ago, after stumbling upon your older postings of Romanesque churches of France.
    I hope someday you will post your sublime photographs of Cistercian abbeys of France, Italy and Spain.


    • Jong-Soung, thank you so much for your kind words. We have posted on the Cistercian abbeys at Fontenay, Senanque, and others, and will post more. Look forward to hearing more from you as we do.

    • Peggy, we have not yet shot Saint John the Divine, but are studying it now. We hope to get to New York City in early June for a session at the Cathedral. Thanks for your kind words on the photography. We always appreciate the interest of those who like our rather narrow photographic specialty.

  4. Dear Dennis,

    These photos are phenomenal. I love photographing religious buildings too and I’d love to photograph this cathedral some day. Thank you for inspiring me.

    And before I forget, thank you for appreciating my blog; it really means a lot.

    Take care,

    • Yousuf, very much appreciate for your kind words. Senlis is just one of many great surviving cathedrals in France. I hope you get the opportunity to spend time shooting them. Thanks for your visit and comments.

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