Cathédrale Ste-Marie

Cathedral in Auch

Even travellers weary of traipsing around yet another French church will be delighted by Auch’s Unesco World Heritage–listed cathedral, a flamboyant late-Gothic to Renaissance building with limestone towers rising imperiously from Auch’s main square. Don’t miss the astonishing choir, where 67 intricate wood carvings depict apostles, saints, Greek sages and pagan prophetesses. Look for Judith holding the severed head of Holophernes, and St Martha with a tamed tarasque (dragon) by her feet. Eighteen impressive stained-glass windows, dating from 1513, beam down from above.

The cathedral’s first stone was laid in 1489 and it was completed two centuries later. But this ornate edifice truly gained its wow factor during the 17th century, when the shops clustered around it were cleared, allowing it to dominate Auch’s main square. Behind the cathedral, the 14th-century, 40m-high Tour d'Armagnac (closed to the public) was built to house the archive of Auch's archbishops, and briefly served as a prison during the Revolution.