The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Luxembourg
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Luxembourg, located in the heart of the Grand-Duchy’s capital, dominates
the city center. It is a skilful combination of classicism and elegance and perfectly blends into the skyline of the capital. Nowadays, the Octave and the Te Deum, celebrated on the national holiday, are performed in the Cathedral.
The oldest part of the present Cathedral of Our Lady, Comforter of the Afflictedm is in fact the church of the former Jesuit College. The plan of the church was drawn up by Brother Jean du Blocq (1583-1656) from the Monastery of Tournai. Brother Otto Herloy (+1639) was responsible for the effective supervision of the building works. The builder was Ulrich Job from Lucerne (Switzerland). The stonework of the church, except for the upper part of the belfry, was entrusted to him. The ornamentation of the columns, a decorative element characteristic of the architecture of the Jesuit church in Luxembourg, was also made in his workshop.
The sculptor Daniel Müller (+1623), an immigrant from Freiberg in Saxony, also made a decisive contribution to the artistic design of the church.
The construction works were completed in 1621, as the inscription on the portal shows. In the same year the richly sculptured gallery, Daniel Müller’s masterpiece, was set up in the entrance to the nave. On 17 October 1621 Georg von Helffenstein, Auxiliary Bishop of Trier, consecrated the college church and dedicated it to the Immaculate Conception.
The artistic decoration of the interior was gradually completed over a period of several decades.
When their order was suppressed in 1773, the Jesuits had to leave the city on the 1st October of the same year. On 15th November, the usufruct of the church was transferred to the college, now under state control. On 29 April 1778 Empress Maria Theresa, sovereign of the Austrian Netherlands, to which Luxembourg had belonged since 1714, gave the former Jesuit church to the City of Luxembourg. The sanctuary was elevated to a parish church under the new name of Saint Nicholas and Saint Theresa.
Just before the French revolutionary troops entered the fortified City of Luxembourg in late 1794, the church received within its walls the miraculous image of the Comforter of the Afflicted, patron saint of the city and the whole country, which the records first mentioned on 8 December 1624.
After the Concordat concluded in 1801 between Pope Pius VII and Napoleon, a large part of the territory of the former duchy, henceforth known as Département des Forêts, was incorporated into the diocese of
Metz. The parish church of Saint Nicholas and Saint Theresa was proclaimed “mother church of the city and the department” and received the new title of “Eglise St Pierre” in an attempt to obliterate the
memories of the Austrian rule.
On 31 March 1844 the apostolic vicar Jean-Théodore Laurent (1841-1848) renamed it “Eglise Notre-
Dame” (Church of Our Lady). His successor to the post of apostolic vicar and first diocesan bishop was
Nicolaus Adames (1848-1883). Under the pretext of purifying the artistic style of the church, he promoted the neo-Gothic renewal of the interior, starting in 1854. In 1851, the church square was demarcated on the rue Notre-Dame side by stone pillars with a cast iron lattice.
The Church of Notre-Dame becomes a cathedral
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna created the Grand-Duchy. On 27 June 1870 Pope Pius IX proclaimed it a self-governing diocese and so the Church of Notre Dame became a cathedral.
Between 1935 and 1938, an extension enhancing the existing building was constructed according to plans drawn up by the architect Henri Schumacher in collaboration with Canon Dr Leo Lommel.
The extension, which rises up from the twin bays of the chancel of the 1613-1621 building, gives a special character to the present appearance of the former collegial church in the city skyline, due to both its scale and its architecture effects.
The wonderful stained glass of the chancel and the transept was made in part by Louis Barillet, that of the Grand Ducal tribune by Oberberger, and the high stained-glass windows of the transept by the Luxembourger Emile Probst.
The latest restoration of the church was carried out by the City of Luxembourg from 1977 to 1978. the purpose was to accentuate the vertical dynamism of the architecture, and highlight sculptural elements.
On Good Friday, 5 April 1985, welding work started a fire in the old belfry. The bells of the carillon, the Bourdon de la Vierge, and the bells of St Willibrord, St Pierre and Ste Cunégonde in this tower were destroyed. As the belfry collapsed, the roof above the central nave of the cathedral was damaged in several places by debris from the burning power.
The construction work of the tower was finished by 17 October 1985.
The deep crypt, with the massive architecture of the twelve columns supporting the church above, contains not only the burial vaults of the Bishops, but also the vault of the Grand-Ducal Family. Entry to the crypt is gained via a wide staircase guarded by two bronze lions bearing the coat of arms of the dynasty – the work of Auguste Trémont. Finally, in the subdued light given by the sparkling stained glass
thwindows by Wendling, one can see the 17 century sarcophagus containing the remains of John the Blind,
Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia.
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted
The veneration of the Comforter of the Afflicted dates back to an initiative by a Jesuit teacher, Father Jacques Brocquart, who organized a modest pilgrimage in 1624 for the pupils of the college. Soon after, he had a chapel built next to the ramparts to house the statue and encourage the veneration of the Blessed Virgin. From 1625 onward, individual pilgrims or groups of students traveled to pray before the statue of the Comforter of the Afflicted. In 1639, the first “Book of Miracles” mentioned prayers answered and cures that took place in front of the miraculous statue in the Chapelle du Glacis. Invocation of the comforter of the Afflicted bevame increasing popular with the people of Luxembourg.
Our Lady, Comforter of the Afflicted, was chosen in 1666 by the City of Luxembourg as “Patron Saint of the City”, and in 1678, she was proclaimed “Patron Saint of the Country” by the whole population, and has
remained the object of fervent worship ever since. Every year, in Spring, the Octave festivities gather round her Christians from all over the country and also Lorraine, the Belgian Ardennes and the Gaume and Eifel regions, for a two-week period (from the fourth to the sixth Sunday of Easter).