Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel, Switzerland – Collegiate Church of Neuchâtel
Population: 33 thousand
Address: 12 rue de la Collégiale, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel
The Collegiate Church, dedicated to the Virgin, is a striking piece of architechture. It is made of hauterive stone, which has a yellow colour, typical for the city of Neuchatel. Almost an entire century passed between the beginning of the construction in 1185 and the consecration of the church in 1276. This is the reason for the juxtaposition between the Romanesque to Gothic design. It is also noticeable in the art inside the Church. The Apses, Choir and and lower walls of the Nave date from the Romanesque period while the lantern tower, nave, and pointed arches all date from the Gothic period.
The church was a Roman Catholic Church until 1530 when Guillaume Farel convinced Neuchatel to join the Reformation. The countess, Jehanne de Hochberg of Neuchatel, remained faithful to Rome, but she still gave the Church over to the city of Neuchatel. Guillaume Farel was the pastor of the Church for 27 years, until his death in 1565.
The last restoration of the church was between 1867 and 1870. At that time three Gothic chapels on the west side were removed and the current west facade, with the main entrance, was built. The north tower and the cloister on the north side of the church were also built during this restoration and were completed in 1869. Another notable feature of the chruch is the South gate which is guarded by St. Peter and St. Paul.
The exterior of the church gained its appearance in 1870 when the starry sky was painted, the balustrade was restored and the organ, made by E. F. Walker da Ludwigsburg, was set in the north transept. The stained glass windows of three apses was created by Clement Heaton in 1905. In 1936, Theodore Belachaux created the rose window and the north side stained glass windows while Marcel Poncet made the south side stained glasses in 1951. The new organ manufactured in Chezard-Saint-Martin were set in the south transept in 1996.
The highlight of the church interior is the Monument of the Neuchatel Counts (le cénotaphe). These are stikingly realistic and well-preserved grouping of 15 life-size painted figures of which fourteen are painted. They are dedicated to the Counts of Neuchatel. This piece of Gothic art is the only monument of its kind outside Italy. It was ordered by Count Louis of Neuchatel in 1372, the latest figures are from about 1425, 1458 and, the only unpainted – from 1487. The cenotaph was spared by citizens of Neuchatel in 1530 – it was unimaginable for them to damage the Monument of the Neuchatel Counts. Dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, these are considered one of Europe’s finest examples of medieval art.