This Cathedral is of great interest architecturally and historically to its visitors. It is a fine example of Norman Gothic art, reminding us that Lisieux was a cathedral town up until 1790.
We owe the construction of this cathedral to Bishop Arnoult. He was a friend to King Louis VI and an advisor to the Duke of Normandy. He started the cathedral in 1149 on his return from the second crusade where he had accompanied the King of France.
The cathedral was partially destroyed by fire in 1126 ; the north tower collapsed in 1554. In 1793 the bells were smelted down and the cathedral itself became a center of revolutionary festivities. In 1802 the cathedral was returned to its original role as a place of worship. It escaped the bombings of 1944 as did the ancient episcopal palace (the modern law courts).
We note in passing that the episcopal see of Lisieux was occupied from 1432 – 1442 by Monsignor Pierre Cauchon, a collaborator with the occupying English forces ; he had previously condemned Joan of Arc to be burned at the stake as a heretic.
But the cathedral is of interest to the pilgrim to Lisieux for a different reason. This is the cathedral where Thérèse participated in the life of the local Church during her youth. For ten years Thérèse came here every Sunday and often during the week with her father and sisters to attend Mass. A modern statue by Lambert-Rucky stands in the south aisle marking the place where Thérèse attended Sunday Mass. During the week she would attend Mass in the apse chapel that had been decorated by Pierre Cauchon. Near the door of the north aisle is the chapel where Fr. Ducellier heard Thérèse’s first confession.