It was built between 1696 and 1703, on the site of a former 11th century building, as the church of the Abbey of St-Sulpice. During the French Revolution the old cathedral of Cambrai was destroyed, but the abbey church survived because it was used as a Temple of Reason. When the ecclesiastical status of Cambrai was restored in 1802, albeit as a diocese rather than as an archdiocese, which it had previously been, the bishop's seat was established in the surviving abbey church, which became the cathedral of Cambrai. Cambrai was again constituted an archbishopric in 1841.
The cathedral was severely damaged by fire in 1859, but at length restored, with advice from Viollet-le-Duc, and consecrated on 12 May 1894.
It contains the tomb, by David d'Anger, of François Fénelon, who was archbishop from 1696 to 1715. The Cathedral is a minor pilgrimage site because of the noted Italo-Byzantine painting called "Our Lady of Cambrai" or the Cambrai Madonna (c. 1340) in a side chapel. The cathedral now takes its dedication name from this: "Notre-Dame de Grâce" or "Virgin of Tenderness", from the Eleusa icon type it exemplifies. In the same chapel is a memorial erected by Hilaire Belloc to commemorate his son who was killed nearby in the last days of World War I.
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