The north of France already reminds of the Belgian Flanders: The landscape is flat and fertile; Farmland with cabbages and potatoes stretches towards the horizon, where now and then spires reach up into the sky. Most travelers visiting the Picardie are there for the sea. There are endless sandy beaches and on good weather days one can see flashes of the English white cliffs across the Channel. Inland those seeking peace and quiet will find what they are looking for. In the old Tudor-style towns one rather drinks beer than wine, and the cathedrals of Amiens and Laon are among the most beautiful in France.
Amiens Cathedral is the tallest of the large ‘classic’ Gothic churches of the 13th century and is the largest in France of its kind. The miraculous building became a model to all Gothic churches and is a world heritage site today. After a fire destroyed the former cathedral, the new nave was begun in 1220 – and finished in 1247. Amiens Cathedral is notable for the coherence of its plan, the beauty of its three-tier interior elevation, the particularly fine display of sculptures on the principal façade and in the south transept, and the labyrinth, and other inlays of its floor. It is described as the “Parthenon of Gothic architecture”, and by John Ruskin as “Gothic, clear of Roman tradition and of Arabian taint, Gothic pure, authoritative, unsurpassable, and unaccusable.”
Late Gothic old town in French Flanders
The former capital of Artois County lies in Picardy, known as French Flanders due to its proximity to Belgium. The restored historical buildings in the old town are grouped around two main Gothic squares which lend the city in northern France the flair of a Flemish trading center. The main attractions are the Gothic city hall building and surrounding townhouses, once owned by wealthy cloth and tapestry merchants.