Around 1100 a church was built in what is now the Ville Haute of Boulogne. This was enlarged over the next few centuries and in 1567 became the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Between the 13th and 16th Centuries it was home to the statue of Our Lady of the Sea which was supposed to have miraculous powers.
In 1308 Edward II of England married Isabella of France here.
In 1790 the French Revolutionary Council brought the Cathedral under government control. Worship was banned and after a few years used as a military warehouse the building was sold. It was then slowly taken apart for building materials and in 1793 the miraculous statue was burnt. Only a part of the hand survived and is today on display in the new church.
Of the original Cathedral only the crypt now survives.
A local priest and self-taught architect, Benoit Haffreingue, vowed to rebuild the church and reinstate the See of Boulogne. Amongst those who supported his campaign were Victor Hugo and François-René de Chateaubriand.
Work commenced on Haffreingues church in 1827 and continued for some fifty years. The dome was completed in 1854 and the west towers were topped off in the 1870s. The church remains a church, not Diocesan seat has been re-established in Boulogne. But the church has been given the honorary title of Basilica to represent its long history.
Photo - Andrew J. Müller
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