The Vaison Cathedral, located near the ruins of La Villasse, is one of Vaison-la-Romaine’s major historical sites and it’s open free to the public.
Officially known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Nazareth (Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth), this former bishopric stands on the site of at least two much older structures (a Roman temple and a 6th-century Basilica) and itself dates primarily to the 11th and 12th centuries (though some parts, namely the eastern apse, date to the Merovingian period.)
The existing structure – a mix of Gothic, Merovingian, and Romanesque architecture – features an angular and austere exterior of rough-hewn stone and a façade decorated with blind arches, pilasters, and an interesting triangular symbol at the top of the gable.
The cathedral’s interior consists of a central barrel-vaulted nave flanked by two narrow side aisles. Among the noteworthy artifacts and architectural features, you’ll see:
Remnants of previous Roman structures (notice the partial column on display);
A minimalist High Altar;
A simple stone baptismal font;
Two pipe organs:
the main organ located above the entrance
and a second, smaller one, in the side aisle;
Several statues including:
A polychromatic Madonna and Child,
A gilded Saint Quinidius, 6th-century Bishop and patron saint of Vaison,
And a uniquely modern Saint Theresa;
Walls scarred by chisel marks and etched with the signature markings of the stonemasons;
An elaborate stone font;
And wall niches, some adorned with decorative iron scrollwork.
The doorway to the left of Saint Quinidius leads out to the medieval cloister,
where the arcaded and cobbled galleries border a central maze of hedges and olive trees. Of interest here are:
The Corinthian columns – a number of which have been reclaimed from earlier Roman structures and are decorated with ornate capitals;