The initial impetus for the building of the cathedral came from the installation of the reputed head of John the Baptist on 17 December 1206.
The great cathedrals of Reims and Chartres are roughly contemporary.
The original design of the flying buttresses around the choir had them placed too high to counteract the force of the ceiling arch pushing outwards resulting in excessive lateral forces being placed on the vertical columns.
The west front of the cathedral, built in a single campaign from 1220 to 1236, shows an unusual degree of artistic unity: its lower tier with three vast deep porches is capped with the gallery of twenty-two over lifesize kings, which stretches across the entire façade beneath the rose window.
Above the rose window there is an open arcade, the galerie des sonneurs.
The ambulatory surrounding the choir is richly decorated with polychrome sculpture and flanked by numerous chapels. The cloth industry was the most dynamic component of the medieval economy, especially in northern France, and the cloth merchants were keen to display their wealth and civic pride.
Another striking chapel is dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, a 13th-century dedication that complements the cathedral's own very full list of martyrs.
In that regard, the Amiens cathedral is the tallest complete cathedral in France, its stone-vaulted nave reaching an internal height of 42.30 metres (138.8 ft) (surpassed only by the incomplete Beauvais Cathedral).
It also has the greatest interior volume of any French cathedral, estimated at 200,000 cubic metres (260,000 cu yd).
Flanking the nave, the two towers were built without close regard to the former design, the south tower being finished in 1366, the north one, reaching higher, in 1406.
The western portals of the cathedral are famous for their elaborate sculpture, featuring a gallery of locally-important saints and large eschatological scenes.
Amiens cathedral contains the largest medieval interior in Western Europe, supported by 126 pillars.