Legend has it that Saint Quentin, one of the first evangelists, was a well-known preacher in Amiens. This was not something the Praetorian Prefect, Rictiovare, was at all happy about, and as a result Saint Quentin was arrested, tortured and imprisoned. After being rescued from jail by two angels, Saint Quentin resumed his evangelic mission, moving a little distance away from Amiens. Unfortunately, this precaution was simply not enough and he was once again captured, imprisoned and tortured until his punishment finally ended with his beheading in 280.
Fifty years later, a Roman named Eusebia had a dream in which she was entrusted with the task of recovering Saint Quentin's body, which she did by fishing it out of the Somme, where it had been discarded following his beheading.
The event made such an impact that a shrine was built on the very site where the martyrdom took place and quickly became a place of pilgrimage, attracting an increasing number of pilgrims as the years went by. It was also selected as a religious seat and a cathedral by the Bishops of Vermandois.
By the 13th Century, the crowds flocking to the site had reached such levels that the decision was made to erect a larger building and transfer the relics of Saint Quentin to it (this took place in 1257 in the presence of Saint Louis).
With regards to architecture, the steeple porch is interesting in that it is the oldest part of the basilica, dating back to the 9th Century, and it therefore belongs to the Carolingian church which was modified in the 12th Century and in subsequent centuries.
Inside, the presence of two transepts makes the basilica nearly unique, as, along with the Abbey of Cluny, it is the only building of its kind to have this feature. The black and white stone initiatory labyrinth on the ground where the two transepts meet is also of interest.
The magnificent labyrinth itself dates back to 1495 and, far from being a mere decorative feature, is a path of penitence which the faithful must travel on their knees, praying for forgiveness for their sins.