century town cathedral portal
SENS, a town of France, chef-lieu of an arrondissement in the department of Yonne, lies on the right side of the Yonne near its confluence with the Vanne, and on the railway from Paris to Lyons, 70 miles south-east of the former city at the intersection of the line from Orleans to Troyes. It derives its importance from its antiquity and its archiepiscopal see. The cathedral of St Etienne occupies the site of an ancient temple on which St Savinian is said to have built, at the close of the 3d century, a little church consecrated to the Virgin. The present Gothic cathedral, erected between 1122 and 1168, subsequently underwent alteration in the 13th century and again under Louis XII. The west front measures 154 feet in breadth ; the middle portal has good sculptures, representing the parable of the virgins and the story of St Stephen. The right-hand portal contains twenty-two remarkable statuettes of the prophets, which have suffered considerable injuries. Above this portal rises the stone tower, decorated with armorial bearings and with statues representing the principal benefactors of the church. The bells in the campanile, by which the tower is surmounted, enjoyed immense reputation in the Middle Ages ; the two which still remain, La Savinienne and La Potentienne, weigh respectively 15 tons 7 cwts and 13 tons 13 cwts. The left portal is adorned with two bas-reliefs, Liberality and Avarice, as well as with the story of John the Baptist. The portal on the north side of the cathedral is one of the finest examples of French 16th-century sculpture. Glass windows of the 12th to the 16th century are preserved, some of them representing the legend of St Thomas of Canterbury. Among the interior adornments are an altarpiece finely carved in stone, the tomb of the dauphin (son of Louis XV.) and his consort, Marie Josephe of Saxony, one of the masterpieces of Coustou, and bas-reliefs from the mausoleum of Cardinal Duprat. The treasury contains a fragment of the true cross presented by Charlemagne, and the vestments of St Thomas of Canterbury. It was in the cathedral of Sens that St Louis, in 1234, married Marguerite of Provence, and five years later deposited the crown of thorns. The official buildings of the cathedral, dating from the 13th century, have been restored by Viollet-le-Duc. The old judgment-hall and the dungeons had remained intact ; in the first story is the synod hall, vaulted with stone and lighted by beautiful grisaille windows. A Renaissance structure connects the buildings with the archiepiscopal palace, which also dates from that period. The oldest of the other churches of Sens is St Savinian, the foundation of which dates from the 3d century, while the crypt is of the early part of the 11th, and the upper portions of the bell-tower of the first years of the 13th. The contents of the museum of sculptured stones have been mainly derived from the old fortifications, which were themselves constructed during barbarian invasion from the ruins of public monuments. The only town gate still preserved is that known as the dauphin's (1777). In the public library are a number of MSS. and a famous missal with ivory covers. The chemist Thenard has his statue in the town. The population in 1881 numbered 13,440.
Sens, when the capital of the Senones, one of the most powerful peoples of Gaul, bore the name of Agenticum. It was not finally subdued by the Romans till after the defeat of Verciugetorix. On the division of Gaul into seventeen provinces under the emperor Valens, Agenticnm became the metropolis of the 4th Lugdunensis. Theatres, circuses, amphitheatres, triumphal arches, and aqueducts were all built in the town by the Romans. It was the meeting point of six great highways. The inhabitants, converted to Chris tianity by the martyrs Savinian and Potentian, held out against the Alemanni and the Franks in 356, against the Saracens in 731 or 738, and finally against the Normans in 886, - the last having besieged the town for six months. At the commencement of the feudal period Sens was governed by counts, who had become hereditary towards the middle of the 10th century; and the contests of these counts with the archbishops or with their feudal superiors often led to much bloodshed and disaster. Several councils were held at Sens, notably that at which St Bernard and Abelard met. The .burgesses in the middle of the 12th century formed a defensive association which carried on war against the clergy, and Philip Augustus restored the commune. In the ardour of its Catholicism Sens massacred the Protestants in 1562, and it was one of the first towns to join the League. Henry IV. did not effect his entrance till 1594, and he then deprived the town of its privileges. In 1622 Paris hitherto suffragan to Sens, was made an archbishopric, and the bishoprics of Chartres, Orleans, and Meaux were transferred to j the new jurisdiction. In 1791 the archbishopric was reduced to a bishopric of the department of Yonne. Suppressed in 1801, the see was restored in 1807 with the rank of archbishopric. The town was occupied by the invaders in 1814 and 1870-71.