A Burgundian Gothic architectural treasure, this cathedral is Switzerland's largest church—and probably its finest. Begun in the 12th century by Italian, Flemish, and French architects, it was completed in 1275. Pope Gregory X came expressly to perform the historic consecration ceremony—of double importance, as it also served as a coronation service for Rudolf of Habsburg as the new Holy Roman Emperor.
Viollet-le-Duc, a renowned restorer who worked on the cathedrals of Chartres and Notre-Dame-de-Paris, brought portions of the building to Victorian Gothic perfection in the 19th century. His repairs are visible as paler stone contrasting with the weathered local sandstone.
Streamlined to the extreme, without radiating chapels or the excesses of later Gothic trim, the cathedral wasn't always so spare; in fact, there was brilliant painting. Zealous Reformers plastered over the florid colors, but in so doing they unwittingly preserved them, and now you can see portions of
these splendid shades restored in the right transept. The dark and delicate choir contains the 14th-century tomb of the crusader Otto I of Grandson and exceptionally fine 13th-century choir stalls, unusual for their age alone, not to mention their beauty. The church's masterpiece, the 13th-century painted portal, is considered one of Europe's most magnificent. A tribute to 21st-century technology, the 7,000-pipe organ fills the sanctuary with swells of sacred music.
Holding fast to tradition, the cathedral has maintained a guet, or "lookout," since 1405. The guet sleeps in the belfry and is charged with crying out every hour on the hour between 10 pm and 2 am.
Protestant services (the cathedral was reformed in the 16th century) exclude nonworshipping visitors on Sunday at 10 am and 8 pm. You may want to come instead for the evening concerts given on an almost weekly basis in spring and autumn. Guided tours are given July to mid-September.