Cathédrale St-Jean


The earliest parts of Besançon's cathedral date to 1127. Though heavily modified in ensuing centuries, following a 13th-century fire and the collapse of its bell tower in 1724, Romanesque capitals still sit atop its interior columns. On the wall hangs La Vierge aux Saints (1512), painted by Italian Renaissance virtuoso Fra Bartolomeo; flick the switch to illuminate it. The cathedral’s best-known treasure is its astronomical clock.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Besançon attractions

1. Horloge Astronomique

0.01 MILES

The base of 18th-century Cathédrale St-Jean's bell tower houses an incredible astronomical clock, powered by 11 weights, that has run the church's bells…

2. Porte Noire

0.04 MILES

Erected in AD 175 in honour of Marcus Aurelius, this 16.5m-high Roman triumphal arch stands very near where the columns of a Roman theatre and the…

3. Maison Natale de Victor Hugo

0.11 MILES

This spiffy museum gives an engaging account of the life and works of Besançon's best-known literary son, Victor Hugo, famous for masterpieces such as Les…

4. Citadelle de Besançon

0.14 MILES

Dominating the city from Mt St-Etienne, more than 100 vertical metres above the old town, the 17th-century Citadelle de Besançon – designed by Vauban for…

5. FRAC Franche-Comté

0.24 MILES

Behind the chequerboard timber façade of this riverside gallery are ever-changing contemporary art exhibitions. The distinctive building, FRAC's home…

6. Musée du Temps

0.25 MILES

Literal and figurative interpretations of time are woven together at the Musée du Temps, which places allegorical paintings about the passage of time next…

7. Hôtel de Ville

0.43 MILES

Dating in its earliest parts from the late 14th century and later decorated with Italian Renaissance-style flourishes, Besançon's town hall was gutted by…

8. Parc Micaud

0.55 MILES

Created in the 19th century, this leafy promenade is the ideal spot to stroll by the Doubs River and it's popular with local cyclists. It's a good place…