VAUDOYER, Léon
(b. 1803, Paris, 1872, Paris)

Exterior view

1852
Photo
Cathedral, Marseille

Vaudoyer's rise to prominence was assured when Hippolyt Fortoul (1811-1856) became Ministre de l'Instruction Publique et des Cultes (1851). The two men worked together for the next five years until Fortoul's death, and Vaudoyer was one of three inspecteurs in the Service des Edifices Diocésains, formed in 1853 to oversee all construction and restoration in France's ecclesiastical buildings. Their most extravagant project was the construction of a monumental new cathedral for Marseille, dramatically poised over the new ports and docks.

Vaudoyer was first involved in 1845 in the selection of a site; he then presented a design in 1852, which was considerably modified before construction began (1855). Vaudoyer's project, its green-and-white marble banding one of the first major exercises in structural polychromy in 19th-century France, was a demonstration of his historicist theory of architecture as 'an unbroken chain of continual progress'. In the cathedral, a synthesis of Roman, Byzantine, medieval and Renaissance forms, he wove together spatial, structural and decorative elements from the succession of architectural styles that had superseded each other both in Marseille and in the development of the French cathedral; its plan combined the basilica, a domed Greek cross and an ambulatory with radiating chapels reminiscent of a medieval pilgrimage church.

Vaudoyer died before his great project was completed. The cathedral was completed by Vaudoyer's most loyal pupil Henri-Jacques Espérandieu (1829-1874) and by Henri-Antoine Révoil (1820-1900), who drew up revised schemes for the sculptural and mosaic decoration of both the façade and the interior, left incomplete when the cathedral was belatedly consecrated in 1893. Much of the furnishings of the chapels and sacristies was completed after 1900 by his son Alfred Vaudoyer (1846-1917).

This Lombard-Roman (or Byzantine?) cathedral is an example of the Rundbogenstil in France.