A rich past

he origins of the church of Saint-Pierre are lost in time. According to historians, it would have been founded in the year 1029 by King Robert II ...

 A very complete excavation inside the old church of Saint-Pierre in 1977-78 allowed us to know more about this pre-Roman church, whose substructures were uncovered.

The church of St. Peter dates back to the second half of the eleventh century for its oldest part, which is the Roman bell tower in the north. A Romanesque church then successively replaced the pre-Romanesque church and was completed only in the twelfth century. Few details are known, except that it did not have a transept. All trace of it disappeared except the two lower floors of the said bell-tower, and perhaps of the wall panels of the north façade of the north aisles. The present church was built in several construction campaigns until the end of the 16th century, mainly in the middle of the 13th century for the pentagonal choir itself (without its aisles or lateral chapels) and the transept; in the middle of the fourteenth century for the eastern half of the nave and aisles; and during the period 1510 to 1530 for the other half of the nave and aisles, the splendid western facade and the lateral chapels of the choir.

The first Gothic construction campaign, therefore, focused on the choir and the transept; it can be dated more precisely for the years 1240. In this thirteenth century, Saint-Pierre was the most important parish of Senlis (the cathedral was not then a parish). At the beginning of the 15th century, a second expansion campaign was begun, aimed at the reconstruction and extension of the still Romanesque nave, as well as the replacement of the original bell tower. Until then, these works were completed and stopped before 1431. So far, three new pillars of the great nave have been built, and the columns have received capitals to support the arches of the vaults. Now the vaults of the nave were never realized, any more than the upper floor of the nave whose windows were to rise above the roofs of the aisles. In 1432, failing the construction of a new bell tower, the old Romanesque bell tower is raised by a floor and provided with a pyramidal stone roof, probably under the direction of Robert Cave. Beginning in the 1460s, the parish received several important donations in order to enable it finally to erect the belfry envisaged at the beginning of the century. A plan was designed by the architects Lorin le Riche and Jean Hazard, but remained a dead letter. Between 1510 and 1520, the first and second bays of the nave and the aisles were built. The aisles are all vaulted, but during the construction of the triple western portal at the same period, the renovation and vaulting of the nave is definitively abandoned. Indeed, the silhouette of the monumental facade, which testifies "of a great decorative talent and a wonderful skill of hand [that] made forget what the interior of the monument presented of irregular and incomplete", s 'adapted to the nave in its unfinished form. At that time, Saint-Pierre already had an organ. Between 1525 and 1530, the lateral chapels on either side of the choir are under construction, which can also be considered as aisles of the choir. From outside, the church does not yet have its present appearance, since the elevation of the bell tower is still in progress in 1588, "square, cold, prosaic mass, surmounted by a skullcap which seems to crush the southern transept of Saint -Pierre ". The skullcap completed in 1592 is also referred to as an "upside-down compotier" disturbing the gothic silhouette of Senlis.
Notre-Dame de Senlis       Saint-Frambourg Chapel