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!

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