Saturday, 28 December 2013

Decorations (2)

Before I became deeply affected by Romanesque architecture, I hardly knew anything about the subject.

That only came with time. Hence I was slightly unpleasantly surprised when somebody, looking at my pictures of the church in Chissey-lès-Mâcon, said : "Ah, you managed to find the modillons as well!". I did not even have the foggiest what a modillon could haven been! Since that time I have learned a few things. A modillon is a short corbel, supporting a roof edge or cornice.

Whatever was so special about those corbels remained a mystery to me, until I realised that corbels decorated with a relief are not present on every church. I have experienced that the more you look for them, the more you find. And not only at roof levels where you can spot them with the naked eye; they can also be found at the roof edges of relatively high bell towers, where one can hardly distinguish them.

It still happens from time to time, that whilst processing my pictures I blow up the top of a bell tower, indeed finding some interesting details which I had not spotted whilst taking the picture.
And the more churches one investigates this way, the more one starts to appreciate the sometimes bizarre details one finds. By now I have an impressive collection of men sticking out their tongues, men hanging upside down, modillons with a double head, a cow's head, a dog's head, hands in all sizes and shapes, geometric patterns, etc. etc.

This blog does not go into the deeper meaning behind those depictions. I am sure there is one, but I simply lack the knowledge to say something sensible about it. Despite this, I still like to go into the Brionnais, because many a church in that area has sufficient nice or funny or gruesome modillons to fill several films of 36 exposures.
All pictures except one were taken in Châteauneuf; the only reason behind it is the fact that it was the first series (but certainly not the only one!) in my collection giving me more than sufficient photographs for this blog.

The Brionnais is less than an hour's drive from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Decorations (1)

In many Romanesque churches one finds, between the end of a column or pilaster and the beginning of the arch an impost, a usually trapezoidal ridge protruding from the face of the column or pilaster. One could call an impost a decoration, albeit not a very exuberant one. I think that it also served as a support for the centring, the wood construction carrying the stone arch as long as it is not finished and hence self-supporting.

Centring (Wikipedia)

The first time I stumbled upon a decorated impost was in the Saint-Pierre in Brancion. Apart from the frescoes this is one of the very few decorations in the church. What exactly is shown in this relief is not very clear to me; to me it resembles a relief of two fighting dragons, battling head to head.

Saint-Pierre - Brancion

But I found also something interesting in the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption in Champlecy. This is clearly shown on the picture below. On the right hand side of the picture there is a "normal" impost, which you can find in almost every church. The left hand side one however, has been decorated with a sculptured cylinder attached to the slanting side of the trapezium.

Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption - Champlecy

Something similar I encountered in the Saint-Nizier in Baron. The first picture shows an impost as described above, but here the cylinder has been intrinsically decorated as well; the second one shows an impost decorated with a row of cylinders in a billette pattern.

Saint-Nizier - Baron
Saint-Nizier - Baron

Finally, in the Saint-Pantaléon in Trambly I found an impost decorated with a pattern consisting of a row of circles, similar to a pattern with oves. On top of that the slanting side of the trapezium has been replaced by a rounded rectangle. Besides, (see 2nd picture) the face of the rectangle perpendicular to the longer side shows a curl, suggesting a stone "scroll".

Saint-Pantaléon - Trambly
Saint-Pantaléon - Trambly

I had never imagined that something at first sight looking so relatively simple as an impost would lead to such an extensive blog!
For the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle, click here.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Slow and steady wins the race, once more!

In a previous blog I mentioned that I might have found the former church in Ciergues, a hamlet near Donzy-le-National. In the meantime I have made an interactive map of Burgundian Romanesque churches, and this "church" is indicated on that map as well. The menu on the left of the map itself contains a list of alphabetically ordered place names.

Shed (left) with other buildings behind it
We still regularly drive through Ciergues, and every time I look to see whether there is somebody home to acknowledge the fact that the shed I had found was indeed the church. Recently we drove through the hamlet again, coming from the north, and this time we stopped at the first cluster of three that make up Ciergues. And what we had never spotted, due to the angle the road makes, we spotted now: behind the shed with the buttresses another building was hidden, consisting of two parts. The panorama photo shows the shed left in the foreground; the building behind it can be seen on the right hand side. A consultation with our export revealed the following: the left hand part of the building in the background had church potential.
There were three characteristics supporting the candidacy of this building over that of the shed:
1. the pignons (gable ends) on both sides of the building, slightly protruding above the roof;
2. the small window with round arch, on the left hand side of the wall;
3. the modillons (corbels) under the lower edge of the roof.

Click on the picture to enlarge
The first search action took place in October 2012, the second a year later. Did I hear someone say that I give up easily?
For our own website, click here.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Priest of Ars

The Priest of Ars
As a non-Catholic it always surprised me to see, apart from the usual Christ, Mary and Joseph statues, the statue of a small guy with a rather pointed nose dressed in "modern", i.e. non-biblical clothing in Catholic churches around here. Asking an American Anglican Reverend (!) whether he knew who this could be, he came up with the name of Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney, in England also known as Saint-John Vianney, the patron Saint of all (Catholic) parish priests.
On a lovely day we drove off to Ars-sur-Formans, a village in Ain (01), for us on the other side of the Saône. Very soon we stumbled upon road signs pointing to "Village du Saint-Curé" (village of the Saint-Priest) - the real name of the village was hardly ever displayed on those signs - and it did not take long to find the place. From the Michelin travel guide I had learned that Ars is an important place of pilgrimage, and not only for priests. Each year Ars is visited by half a million worshippers.
The whole village breathes Saint-Curé.

The bell tower of the Basilica
His house is converted into a museum, the old village church has been replaced by and partially incorporated into a new basilica (1862), which houses the remains of the priest (a rather tasteless grotesque building by architect Pierre Bossan who also built the Notre-Dame-de-Fouvière in Lyon), there is a museum with wax effigies of the priest during the various stages of his life, in short, the former parish priest still "lives" in this village. Inside the Basilica one can see the priest's body, and for the heart of the man a separate chapel has been built.
There are, in the bell tower of the "old" church, still six old Romanesque columns and capitals, originating from the cloister of a partially demolished priory church, that of Salles-en-Beaujolais.

Saint-André in Saint-André-de-Bâgé

After all this rather modern church-spotting we decided to visit the very interesting 11th Century Saint-André in Saint-André-de-Bâgé on our way back, still on the same side of the Saône, just opposite Mâcon. The apse of this church boasts an interesting arcade, a number of the columns have elaborately carved capitals, the portal of the church is beatiful as well, in a word, this church turned our visit to Ain into a great succes.

Between Ars and Saint-André we stumbled upon some 12th Century churches, those of Biziat, Saint-Julien-sur-Veyle and Sandrans. Only the church of Saint-Julien-sur-Veyle was open to visitors.

Saint-André in Saint-André-de-Bâgé - lust

A concise overview of Romanesque churches in Ain bordering Saône-et-Loire can be found on this map.

Saint-André-de-Bâgé is only a day trip away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

An unexpected discovery

Recently we visited an artisan in Bonnay, who produces miniature wooden things. Not only does he make tiny little toys and elaborate knickknacks, very popular in the sixties to be displayed in type cases, no, next to his workshop he has a small museum where he displays all the items he has made in the past. He keeps one specimen of everything he has ever fabricated for this museum.

Everything moves!

One of the cutest things for sale at the moment is a tiny workbench of not higher than 2 inches, of which the vice actually can be operated by a thin wooden handle. Apart from items for sale he has a beautiful collection of music boxes, a merry-go-round, a clock (of which the only part not made of wood is the protective glass casing), a large wall cabinet with many small doors carrying the names of professions; opening a door will bring a violin maker into action, etc. etc.
This museum is certainly worth a visit, and to get an impression of the work of Joël and Maryse Dedianne, click here.

The old bell tower (left)

One of the walls of the museum is covered with information about Bonnay and surroundings. A picture of a piece of wall in opus spicatum caught my eye, the only part still existing of the original Romanesque church of Bonnay. Next to it a blow-up of an old picture postcard was displayed, showing the bell tower of that church next to the new church. The tower still existed around 1935.
I am now 100% convinced that the piece of wall, about which I once wrote a blog, indeed belonged to a church one day!

Bonnay is at cycling distance from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Church spotting

I have kept myself busy for quite some time now composing an interactive map of (amongst others) Saône-et-Loire, which enables the user to easily spot where exactly to find Romanesque churches. Basis for this job was the inventory of Romanesque churches in Burgundy to be found on "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne".
That sounds simpler then it is in reality.
Firstly one starts off with a place name and preferably a postal code.
Those two pieces of information will locate at least the village or the town quite accurately in Google maps or in Geoportail, the French equivalent of Google Earth.

For villages one has to start looking for a church on the satellite map. A church is often recognisable (but not always!) from its cross shaped plan, from the fact that a church is often (more or less) orientated along a west-east axis, and from the often semicircular chevet which closes off the body of the church on the east side. If the map gives street names, a street name contaning the word "église" is a give-away as well. An excellent example of such a church is the one in L'Abergement-de-Cuisery.
Another give-away is that lots of churches are located on or next to a graveyard, like the church in Chapaize.

Cathédrale - Autun
That not all churches are to be found so easily can be seen from the aerial picture of Autun Cathedral. The orientation is more north-south than west-east, it does not show a clear cross shaped plan and the semicircular chevet can hardly be recognised on the picture. Fortunately Google maps locates the church for you when you enter "Autun Cathedral" in the search window.

Another interesting example is the church in Trivy. This church is easily recognisable as a church, however, it is even more clearly north-south orientated than Autun Cathedral. The eastern arm of the cross has a semicircular ending. This church was once a "normal" church, and orientated west-east. The present semicircular chapel was once the chevet of the church; when the church became too small the nave was demolished, and a new nave was built in north-south direction because there was more space available than in the "correct" direction. the old chevet hence became a side chapel.

Chapelle Saint-Nicolas - Autun
A chapel is often even more difficult to find. It is quite often rectangular, hence not having a semicircular chevet, and the orientation is sometimes random. This is clearly the case with the Chapelle Saint-Nicolas in Autun. Again, searching in Google maps for a street name or for "Chapelle Saint-Nicolas", or asking somebody who has sufficient knowledge or literature will solve this problem.

IGN zoom level 1 - Chazelle
Ordinary road maps can also be of help. The Michelin road maps and the IGN walking maps indicate churches quite accurately, showing the researcher at least on which side of a road or of a village one can find the church. The aforementioned site offers even better options. When starting up this site it offers a satellite map; however, in the lefthand menu it offers a variety of maps to choose from. The first option is the IGN map. To illustrate the use of Geoportail I have chosen to look for the church of Chazelle, because I can find this church in real life with my eyes closed.
IGN zoom level 2 - Chazelle
When I enter "71460 Chazelle, Cormatin" in the search window, I end up at zoom level 1. the picture shows roughly where the church can be found in relation to the main roads.
Zooming in further, I end up on the ordinary IGN walking map.
This zoom level 2 shows more accurately where the church is, although at this scale one can only pinpoint the church quickly when one knows from zoom level 1 where to look.
IGN zoom level 3 - Chazelle
Zooming in even further to level 3 shows the church very clearly, when one knows that grave yards are coloured violet, and churches are coloured purple. Once this far, Chazelle church can easily be traced on the satellite picture as well.

Satellite picture - Chazelle
Most of the above I have found out by trial and error. Certainly when I started off with these maps like the one of Saône-et-Loire I had to ask Eduard van Boxtel, the webmaster of "Le site sur l'Art Roman in Bourgogne" many a question concerning the location of certain churches.
But, at the end of the day both of us can say that together we have cracked the system!

Chazelle church can also be found easily by asking for it at the owners of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Beaujolais revisited

The last time we were in the Beaujolais was not just to visit some Romanesque churches; we were also on a pilgrimage to Clochemerle. And because the ability of a human being to absorb Romanesque churches is indeed limited, we decided to leave the remaining churches worth a visit in the area for what they were, and simply return some other time.
So on a fine day we packed the car and drove again to the Beaujolais area. The first port of call was Beaujeu, the "capital" of the Beaujolais. The travel guide indicated that the bell tower of the Saint-Nicoals in Beaujeu (1130) was something special, and that certainly turned out to be true.

Clocher - Beaujeu
From Beaujeu we continued our quest to the north, with Avenas as the first stop after Beaujeu. The old roman road connecting Autun with Lyon runs throug this picturesque village, which has a 12th century church, the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption. The church itself is interesting, but what makes it really worth the detour is the white limestone altar. The front shows Christ, seated in a mandorla with on the four corners the tetramorph.
On each side of the mandorla 6 apostles are shown seated. The sides of the altar show scenes from the life of Mary (left hand side) and a depiction of the donor (right hand side), possibly King Louis VII, although the inscription at the bottom does not mention him.

Altar - Avenas

The last two churches, those of Ouroux and Saint-Mamert are not even mentioned in my Michelin guide, hence I cannot say much more about them than that these are nice churches.
The Saint-Antoine in Ouroux has some interesting arcatures in the apse. The original nave seems to have been replaced by a new one.

Arcature - Ouroux

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Saint-Mamert preserves, with the exception of the nave, its original state. The old nave was wider, which is obvious when one considers one of the bricked-up passages berrichons. I found a brochure in the church about its history, hence the accurate information about the date of construction.

Passage berrichon - Saint-Mamert

An overview of a number of churches in the Beaujolais is given on this map.

And again we managed to do it, during this second trip through the area: driving through lush vineyards, and returning home without having drunk even one sip of Beaujolais wine!

For our own website, click here.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Beaujolais

The Beaujolais is outside France well known for its wines, in particular for its Beaujolais Nouveau which is promoted abroad each year with vigour.

Double identity
Beaujolais is also well known in France, however, I think that many Frenchmen will associate the Beaujolais area first with the book Clochemerle, and only in second instance with the wine region. Clochemerle is the title of a book by Gabriel Chevallier set in the fictive village of the same name in the Beaujolais. But is it really fictive?
Rumour has it that Chevallier had modelled Clochemerle after the real village Vaux-en-Beaujolais. He not only used the lay-out of the village, but he also used the characters of some of the villagers. Another rumour had it that in some cases he did not even bother to change the names of the villagers!

Urinal with trompe l'oeil in the background
Since I have read the book (with pleasure) at least 3 times, in English, Dutch and French, it seemed like a good idea to combine a visit to some Romanesque churches in the area with a pilgrimage to Vaux-en-Beaujolais. On entering the village it becomes very clear that the rumours are not really rumours. This impression was reinforced when we saw the village square. In the middle of it a public urinal had been erected as an homage to Chevallier, similar to the one that played a main role in the book and the building of which split the village into two camps. Overlooking the square stands a building on which a trompe l'oeil has been painted showing scenes from the book.

The fine bell tower of Vaux-en-Beaaujolais
In a word, Vaux-en-Beaujolais ís Clochemerle, and obviously the village does not mind to use the similarity between the two villages to attract some tourists.
Although this blog is more about reality and fiction than about Romanesque architecture (which should be the subject of the blogs), even in Vaux-en-Beaujolais one can find traces of the Romanesque period. The local church has a fine bell tower, an interesting portal that gives the impression to have been re-employed when the facade was renewed and two (not very common in this area) passages berrichons.

A re-employed portal?
During our round trip we also visited Saint-Etienne-la-Varenne, Saint-Georges-de-Reneins, Salles-Arbuissonnas-en-Beaujolais and Belleville.
Certainly the last village boasts a beautiful church, not in the least because of the stunning sculpted columns.
The semicircular engaged columns adorning the nave appeared to have, halfway between the column base and the capital, strange reliefs, showing human or animal figures. The apse also has some beautifully carved pilasters.

View on choir, apse and passages berrichons
For a detailed map showing some of the churches in the Beaujolais, click here.

Even though we did not drink one sip of local wine during our trip, this particular visit appeared to leave an excellent impression of the area.
The Beaujolais lies at less than an hour's drive from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Old, older, ancient

This spring the population of Cluny and other people interested were given the opportunity to have a look at the most recent discoveries in Cluny's former abbey church. A huge team of archaeologists works there, day in day out, year in, year out, discovering more and more of the remains of Cluny III, this immense building demolished around the year 1800.

Grand portail - Musée Ochier Cluny
Although not part of this year's tour, trying to fit together the tiny bits and pieces left over from the "Grand Portail" was one of the chores of previous years. This portail was one of the highlights of Romanesque architecture and sculpture, until an explosion blew the portail to smithereens in 1810. Whatever has been saved and could be located can now be admired in the Musée Ochier in Cluny.

This year's tour emphasized heavily on the discovery and restoration of the lavabo (a covered area with hand wash basins in use by the monks - they utilized them before a service), and of the pedestal of the altar of Cluny II, the predecessor of its much bigger sister Cluny III.

Petit cloître - Ensam Cluny
The picture shows a corridor, known as the "petit cloître". This is the former 18th century chapter house, at the side of which a number of columns of the medieval chapter house were found (the recesses on the right hand side). Behind the low gate lies the sanctuary of Cluny II.

This sanctuary once possessed some relics of the apostles Peter and Paul, of whom the church carried the names. The remains of these apostles, who play a major role in the perception of the Roman-Catholics, is the reason why Cluny became a very important place of pilgrimage.

Sanctuaire Cluny II
The conductor of the tour, the administrateur or head of the archaeologists, put quite a bit of emphasis on the friction that exists between the National Monument Body on one hand and the town council of Cluny, the Haras (National Stud) and the Ensam (a very prestigious university) on the other hand, and how the skirmishes between those parties are solved by giving and taking a little. Each of those bodies either owns or uses a certain part of the area occupied by Cluny III. If only North Korea and the USA could follow their example....

Lavabo - Cluny

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Never give up the first time

North-west of Saint-Gengoux-le-National one can find some villages with interesting churches, such as Saint-Martin-du-Tartre, Genouilly and Germagny. The hamlet Maizeray, near Saint-Martin-du-Tartre, hosts a former church according to Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne. After we had seen the church in Saint-Martin-du-Tartre, and before we carried on with our sightseeing tour it seemed logical to drive through Maizeray in search of that church.

Was this priory the church I was looking for?
Not all hamlets around here are tiny. Some, like this one, are even bigger than the commune they fall under. After a trip along all the roads entering and leaving the village we still had not spotted anything slightly resembling a church. But luck and chance sometimes lend a helping hand. Just when we were about to give up we saw a young man doing some work outside his house. And that is sheer luck, because most of these places are deserted when you want someone. We asked him for a church or the remains there of, and at first instant he referred to the church of saint-Martin-du-Tartre. We told him that we had just seen that one, so he went inside to check with his girl friend.

The oratoire in Maizeray
When he came back he told us that there had been a priory in Maizeray once, and that the remains of that building were owned by the neighbour on the other side of the road. That neighbour was not in, but this guy knew how to enter the premises without breaking and entering through a non-locked gate, and in we went. And that is how we found the remains of an old priory. After I had taken some pictures there, we went off to visit the church of Genouilly, which turned out to be a very interesting one.
When we came home I contacted the webmaster of "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne", who replied promptly. He did not know what the church looked like, or in what state it was, but he was quite adamant that the church was near the oratoire in the village. He even sent me a photo of this oratoire, which to me looked like a cross between a war memorial and one of those road chapel one sees a lot in Germany. In any case, the priory was not what he was looking for, and that is why I put Maizeray for the time being on hold.

The remains of a church wall?
Not long after this we made another trip along a number of interesting churches in that part of the world, amongst them the ruin of Le Puley, and again we passed through Maizeray. This time we knew what the oratoire looked like, and it turned out to be not difficult to find. Eduard had more or less suggested that a wall which was now part of the oratoire might well have belonged to the church we were looking for. In those instants the boy scout (which I never was!) surfaces, and looking around there the following matters were brought to light.

Cadole or chapel?

1. Behind the semicircular wall there were several traces of rubble, which might well be the remains of a wall.

2. In front of the oratoire there was a cadole (a semicircular agricultural shed, often built in dry stone) as you can find by the dozen in the fields around here. Someone with an overabundance of fantasy could see the remains of a chapel in this thing.

3. Finally we found, near the oratoire some sort of milestone with strange inscriptions. With my ever present fantasy I could recognise the papal keys in the coat of arms of Cluny.

Mile stone? Papal keys?

There was not much more to see there, and after having duly photographed every stone that might have any relevance, we got into the car, left the parking area near the oratoire, and turned into the road leading home. And that is where it happened; from the corner of my eye I spotted a church window in the facade of a house standing at the bottom of the knoll the oratoire was on. I shouted stop, the driver made an emergency stop, and we were able to photograph this Romanesque gem, in able to preserve it for posterity.
The moral of this story : don't give up too easily, at the end of the day it is dogged that does it!

Practical information (courtesy of Eduard van Boxtel) : Church Saint-Pierre in Genouilly, 11th century, 3*
Church Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption in Germagny, 12th century, 3*
Former abbey (Maison Chaumont) in Germagny, 12th century, ?*
Former church (ruin) Saint-Christophe in Le Puley, 12th century, 4*
Former church (habitat) Saint-? in Maizeray (Saint-Martin-du-Tartre), ?th century, 0*
Church Saint-Martin in Saint-Martin-du-Tartre, 11th century, 3*

For our own website, click here. 

Found, the former church of Maizeay!

Monday, 12 August 2013


Since early August 2013 the original URL to the site "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne" is no longer valid. In various blogs and on the interactive maps of Romanesque churches in Burgundy I rather abundantly refer to this website; obviously these links do not work anymore either. The problems around that site have been solved; click here to find the new "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne". The links on my maps have been changed accordingly.