Saturday, 20 December 2014

Break your head over this

Recently we attended a lecture with the subject “le culte celte des têtes coupées” with as a starting point a few sculpted heads embedded in the walls of the Romanesque church of Santilly.

The origins of these sort of sculptures is obscure, and is often attributed to the Celts during the Gallo-Roman period. The lecture was trying to establish a link between these heads and head hunters or “simple” beheadings, from the head hunters in Papua New-Guinea via Indian tribes in South America to Greek and Roman human sacrifices. The whole story had “Chariots of the Gods” by von Däniken written all over it.

Modillons - Saint-Laurent-en-Brionnais
The lecture still left me with the question what is the background of these sort of sculptures. And here I am not talking of the sculpted modillons acting as consoles at the edge of a church roof (e.g. Saint-Laurent-en-Brionnais). They sometimes show different, often grotesque heads, but also depict animals, geometric patterns, etc. These sort of decorations do not seem to be illogical when a sculptor wants to decorate relatively small pieces of stone.
Another example is the tympanum of the church in Ormes. That is, again according certain sources, a remnant of Gallo-Roman (in origin Celtic) devotion, which existed for quite some time parallel to Christianity, certainly in the French country side.

Sucellus - Ormes
This head is supposed to be the god Sucellus, the god with the mallet. And for an agnostic contemplator there is not much difference between a Majestas Domini on a tympanum and a God with a mallet.
I am actually more intrigued by the solitary heads, seemingly without any logic attached to the walls of churches or bell towers. An interesting example can be seen on the bell tower of the church in Saint-Gengoux-le-National.
One can find them on a relatively big number of Romanesque churches in Saône-et-Loire. He who can explain their origin and background, let him speak up….

The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Could you open that door, please?

In the past we have had our share (as described in a number of previous blogs) of problems with accessing a church. However, once we had the name of the person holding the key (the mairie, the sexton, someone living next to the church) we usually obtained the key without any problems. On the other hand, there must be people randomly ringing someone’s doorbell near the church asking them whether they have the key. And that not everybody is happy with these unsolicited visits is clearly shown on the picture below.

Opposite the church - Chazelle
Chazelle church is normally open, although Mme S. who keeps the key and usually opens the church door in the morning, sometimes forgets or might be a bit on the late side. And although Chazelle church is a very charming one, to say that hundreds of tourists are flocking in day in day out to visit the church is a bit of an exaggeration.
However, the person living opposite the church must have regular callers, and that must aggravate this person so much that he or she has put the following notice on his or her door:
"- I do not hold the key to the church
- I am not the caretaker of the church yard
- Please contact the mayor of the commune (with full name and address)
- Thank you"

Gate and door, both open
The second sentence is a bit odd. The church yard has two gates, but neither gate has a lock. And what sort of people, other than the one and a half tourist per month, would be ringing the door bell opposite the church regularly? The only people I can think of are Taizé goers. Despite the fact that they have two churches in Taizé at their disposal one regularly encounters some kids, often but not always rather unworldly and zombie-like, in the churches, of Ameugny, Chazelle, Bray and even in Cormatin. They take possession of those churches as meditation centres. And there are far more of those kids around than the aforementioned one and a half tourist per month!

Interior Notre-Dame - Chazelle
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

It is finished

It must have been in July 2012 when I tried to get in touch with Eduard van Boxtel about his site “Bourgogne Romane”.

Orangerie - Cluny
Ever since that day a steady stream of emails went up and down between Chazelle and Rotterdam at first, Amsterdam later, with questions, answers, remarks, but mainly with pictures of Romanesque buildings in (for the biggest part) Saône-et-Loire. It started off with transferring pictures which I had in stock for possible future use on our own website. After I started studying van Boxtel’s website in greater detail I came across a number of buildings I did not know yet, but which seemed worth a visit.

Former church, now habitat - Ciergues
This soon lead to an interesting day out looking for a specific church, a quest for remains of Romanesque houses in Cluny, a long and tiring search for former churches almost unrecognisable due to renovations into a habitat, several expeditions in search of a chapel which was mentioned somewhere, but which could not be traced on any map (nor in real life after inquiring with the locals, I might add).
In the meantime, after having gotten the hang of it, I started to plot out all churches mentioned on “Bourgogne Romane” in Google Maps, which gave me even more inspiration for even more search actions…

Romanesque churches in 71
In short, the contact I built up with van Boxtel kept me until a few weeks ago off the streets (as it did van Boxtel, because he meticulously studied the pictures I sent him and put them on his site when appropriate), and it gave me and my better half, despite a bit of aggravation every so often with local authorities who did not want to play ball, two years of pleasure and satisfaction. But all good things come to an end, and even though a very small number of items on “Bourgogne Romane” still has not been solved by us (due to a combination of not interesting enough, not findable, too far away, and/or not accessible), I dare say that Romanesque Saône-et-Loire has been almost completely covered by us on the map as well as in real life with pictures.

That's all that rests in 71, folks...
That does not mean that there is nothing more to be visited; revisits sometimes bring unexpected surprises, but the big bulk of work has been done. A comparison between the number of 6, 5, 4 and 3-star churches which are covered with a separate page by van Boxtel in Saône-et-Loire, Côte-d’Or, Nièvre en Yonne speaks volumes. I really do like statistics, and that results in the following percentages (the percentage of churches with a link to one of van Boxtel's web pages related to the number of churches on his overall list):

Saône-et-Loire : 68% (281 of 411 churches) Bourgogne Romane resp. Google Maps.

Côte d’Or : 25% (76 of 306 churches) Bourgogne Romane resp. Google Maps.

Yonne : 21% (49 of 228 churches) Bourgogne Romane resp. Google Maps.

Nièvre : 16% (30 of 185 churches) Bourgogne Romane resp. Google Maps.

The 68% for S&L is rather conservative. In the category 1 or 2 star churches van Boxtel possesses pictures of the majority of those churches, but this material has not (yet) been translated into a web page. When I consider all placenames of which I am sure van Boxtel has pictures, the percentage all of a sudden goes up to 97% (400 of 411 churches).

Somewhere here lies a motte féodale - Loisy
How many churches in Saône-et-Loire already had their own web page before I started my contributions I cannot (unfortunately) retrieve. A cautious estimate is between 25 and 50%.
This however does not mean the end of this blog; during my trips I have stumbled upon sufficient interesting material to keep me going for a while. Hence: will be continued!

Revisit : capitals - Saint-Bonnet-de-Cray
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

A church just across the border

Even though the churches in Saône-et-Loire have the highest priority on my list, the interesting churches of course do not stop exactly at the border of our department.

Van Boxtel once gave me a list with churches located just across Burgundy’s border, for example some churches in Ain (01), just on the other side (on the left bank) of the Saône.

When we had an appointment to visit the church of Saint-Romain-des-Îles, it was not really much of a detour to pop by Illiat, a church which had been rated by van Boxtel as being worth 3 stars. That turned out to be an excellent guess, and certainly worth while the detour.
Apse - Illiat
The church was open (a pleasant surprise!), and despite of the rather boring exterior the interior was certainly worth its 3 stars. Again van Boxtel’s star rating turned out to be accurate.
After we had had a good look around the church, it was time to drive to Saint-Romain, where a very friendly elderly lady, the sexton, was already waiting for us. She had already opened all doors and lit all lights. This also turned out to be an interesting church once inside.

There were some remains of old frescoes in the sacristy, the nave had some arcades with interesting arcades with beautiful capitals, and the apse boasted a rather crude Christ en Gloire, with equally crude biblical figures and scenes painted underneath it in apse and choir. The brochure we received from the sexton did not mention those paintings at all, and to me they looked like they were made by a local not so talented artist in the 20-ies of the last century.
And with the visit of these two churches all Romanesque churches South of Mâcon have been visited and photographed!

Interior - Saint-Romain-des-Îles
More Romanesque churches galore can be found in the immediate vicitiy of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Unknown interiors

As mentioned in previous blogs, it is not always easy to get into a church.

The most frustrating visits are those were, after a drive of more than an hour, the key holder of whom one does not have a phone number appears not to be home, or when one is driven from pillar to post by a non-cooperative council employee, at first on the phone, but sometimes also after a personal encounter.
However, giving up is not our strongest feature. Finally there is only one commune, Etrigny (Champlieu), where an employee, and even after a phone call the mayor, refused to open the church door. Having said that a score of 1:327 (the number of churches we have seen from the inside, either because the church was already open, or because someone arranged a key) is not a bad result after all.

Saint-Valérien - Tournus
The church in Chassey-le-Camp turned out to be a doddle. When we passed by there on a second church hunt the person living at the “house with the metal gate next to the church” turned out to be home. The woman in question was very friendly, was very eager to have a little chat and told us that she hardly ever got visitors for the church. This church has since been marked as “being dealt with”.
Tournus turned out to be, after having been sent from the proverbial pillar to post by several council employees, well worth the effort. As described in a previous blog we were finally phoned by someone from the mairie in Tournus who seemed quite eager to show us around the the two remaining churches there. Hence we drove once more to Tournus, and at the given day and time the man from the mairie turned up.

Saint-Valérien - Tournus (former projection room above the entrance)
He appeared to be a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable young man, recently voted in the town council. He was very polite, spoke eagerly very good English, and was made responsible within the council for the minor Romanesque buildings in Tournus. He brought us first to the Saint-Valérien, a former church, later cinema. There had been serious problems with the lease of the building in the recent past, involving court orders and the like. The building is for rent, but the council is still waiting for a final ruling of the courts with relation to the previous tenant, an antiquarian. Our host told us that he had recently admitted an artist inside the building, who wanted to record music because of the excellent acoustics of the place.

Saint-Laurent - Tournus
After this building he brought us to the Chapelle Saint-Laurent, a pre-Romanesque church. The most spectacular feature of this building is undoubtedly its age. And on the way back he casually showed us a Romanesque frieze, vertically embedded in the wall of a building on the high street. Most likely this frieze originally belonged to a long gone church or house which was located near there.
In short, it took us some trouble to get inside these buildings, but it had certainly been worth the effort!

5, Rue de la République
The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Who has the key???

I am desperately trying to get hold of some interior photographs of churches that were closed during a previous visit.

Saint-Valérien - Tournus
We have tried all sort of things: just revisit the church at random (not very successful for the remaining churches), sending an e-mail to the marie in question (often also without success), phone the marie beforehand (idem) or, on the day the mairie is open, pop by the mairie. This last option has worked most of the time. Tournus still has two churches I would like to see from the inside, the Saint-Valérien and the Saint-Laurent. An email to the mairie stayed unanswered.

Saint-Laurent - Tournus
Various phone calls resulted in endless waiting times, and when we finally got someone on the line, she told us that the key was not available with the mairie, but with the local museum. In the meantime I had found some interior pictures of the Saint-Laurent on the website of the C.I.E.R., the Centre International d’Etudes Romanes. A website usually means an email address, so it would be worth asking whether they had a key as well. The email however was never answered, not so strange considering how up to date their website is.

Saint-Valérien - Tournus - Photo
At the museum we were more successful. Well, successful? At least someone there was adament that they certainly did not have a key, and that the mairie had been bullshitting us when they told us they did not have the key.
We just came back from a visit to the mairie; we will be phoned to make an appointment. Where had I heard this before? Literally seconds ago the phone rang, and we have an appointment! To be continued….

Saint-Laurent - Tournus - Photo C.I.E.R.
La Tuilerie de Chazelle is very close to Tournus, where the former abbey church is (almost) always open.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The last one in 71!

One day there is a black dot....
On my map of Romanesque churches in Saône-et-Loire I use three main symbols (these define the global differences; the differentiation in colours I leave here for what it is):
A drawing pin for churches of which neither van Boxtel has a separate page nor I have pictures;
A marker in the shape of a drop of water with a black dot in the middle of which van Boxtel has pictures, but I don’t;
A marker in the shape of a drop of water without a black dot in the middle of which I have pictures; van Boxtel however has these pictures at his disposal.

And the next day it's gone!
When I started with this map there were quite a few of those markers with a black dot, but thanks to rather intensive church searches in the area this number diminished quickly. Until, quite recently, without realising it, I could exchange the last drop with black dot for one without. There are still some churches on the program, but those are mainly (interesting) churches which I had not seen from the inside, or which (and these are mainly less interesting churches) I hope to visit one day.
The last one with dot that bit the dust was Chassey-le-Camp, a two star church near Chagny. The key was available with the neighbours, but lo and behold, there was nobody home that day. But you never know, maybe one day I will be around there again, and then I might have better luck with shooting some pictures of the interior….

The church of Chassey-le-Camp
La Tuilerie de Chazelle is located in an area where Romanesque churches are abundant, and we have sufficient information available to help those who are interested on their way.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Catching up

One of the few churches of which Eduard van Boxtel’s website had interior photographs, but I did not, was the church of Vinzelles.

After we had visited the church of Nancelle, knowing that Vinzelles was close by and that the mairie of Vinzelles was open that day, it seemed a good idea to catch up on this particular church. Having learned from previous experience, we did not go to the mairie straight away, but tried the church door first, taking the chance that the door was open. And it was!

Decorated cupola
The interior of the church was more interesting than I had assumed based on van Boxtel’s page. The church has a cupola on squinches, richly decorated in the 19th Century, at least that is what I assume on the basis of what I have seen in other churches.
This visit also gave me an opportunity to have a good look at the exterior of the church. It is a very simple building, with hardly any decorations.

Only the main and the side portal are decorated with capitals, even though these have been heavily damaged in the course of the centuries. Of course this visit also resulted in a new album!
The amount of interesting churches around Mâcon I have not yet seen is diminishing. The only one still on my list is the church of Saint-Romain-des-Iles, direction Beaujolais. But the mairie there is only open two mornings and one afternoon a week….

Damaged capital
The Mâconnais, not far from La Tuilerie de Chazelle boasts a rich collection of Romanesque churches.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The key

Around Fley
We have a client in Rimont, a hamlet resorting under the commune of Fley. On our way to this client we always pass through Fley, and we have visited the church there several times. The first time we had made some pictures of the outside, but in front of the door that was open was mounted a grill, in order to be able to look inside. However, it was not possible to make a proper picture of the interior. During a second visit, this time on a Sunday, the grill was still locked. That churches are closed on Sundays is not as exceptional as it seems. The secularization in France has been progressing quickly lately, and some priests are serving a group of between 10 and 20 former parishes. In Chazelle for example, mass is celebrated only twice a year; in bigger villages of the parish this can be a bit more often.
There are a few possibilities to visit a church other than for a service. This is not a scientific overview, but it seems to be pretty near the truth.

The church of Fley
1. The church is opened daily by the sexton, if only to air it and get rid of some of the moisture, a real problem in a lot of churches. Fortunately this is the case with most churches around here.
2. The church is locked every day, and the key is with the mairie. In some cases someone from the mairie opens the church door when the mairie is open (which is often only some hours per week). It is always wise to check the door before one marches into the mairie.
3. The church is locked every day, and the key is with the mairie. When one asks for it, one gets the key, or, if they do not want to give the key to a stranger (this is quite rare), the key holder will be phoned or one gets name and phone number of that person. In the latter case one has to contact this key holder.

Interior seen through the grill
In Fley we encountered a fourth, and quite different possibility. The mairie is only open on Thursday afternoon, and two hours late on a Friday afternoon. When we passed by two weeks ago and asked for the key, we got no for an answer. The secretary was rather amazed that we asked for the key in the first place, and refused to hand it over to us before she had consulted the mayor. She was going to phone us as soon as the key was available for us. After we left our phone number at the mairie we went home, a bit disappointed though.

The grill
The next week we received a number of phone calls, but Fley did not call once. Reason why, two weeks later on another Thursday, we in our turn phoned the mairie in Fley. The same lady answered the phone, and this time the answer came as a surprise: “Of course, the key is on my desk, waiting for you to pick it up”. Fley is about half an hour from here by car, so we were there in no time. The mayor happened to be there too, he welcomed us very friendly, and while the secretary gave us “the” key he disappeared into his office.

The church is very close to the Mairie, hence seconds later we were standing in front of the grill finding out that “the” key did not fit. Since most churches also have a side entrance, we marched around the church, but in vain. And again we went back to the mairie; however, this time we left it soon with another key marked “église – grille”. Whether the church interior was worth all the hassle, one can judge for himself by looking at the picture album

The choir
Of course it would be fascinating to find out why we were send off the first time, and why we were helped (albeit in 2 stages) the second time. My theory is that the inhabitants of Fley had chosen a new mayor during the elections in March (however, this is a fact), and that this mayor appointed a new secretary. She had no idea how this whole key business was supposed to be handled, and since hardly anybody ever wanted that key anyway she decided to send those awkward strangers off empty handed, thinking that these foreigners would never come back. The fact that the mayor happened to be there that afternoon, might have helped a bit as well!

If the church of Chazelle happens to be locked one day, the proprietors of La Tuilerie de Chazelle know where to find the key, and that is not inside the mairie!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Around Chagny

Between Givry and Chagny
In my previous blog I mentioned that the churches and buildings around Chagny which we visited during our last quest were not very spectacular. Having said that, the landscape around Chagny is very pretty, partially located in the vineyards of the Chalonnais and already bordering those of the Côte d’Or.
And since this blog is not necessarily restricting itself to the “great” churches I would like to elaborate a bit on the previous trip.

The “Cellier aux moines” in Givry for example looks out over these vineyards, possibly those belonging to this domain. The parcels of land here have not been consolidated, and when you think about it this is not illogical. Every bit of soil here has its own characteristics, and one parcel might produce a Grand Cru, while the neighbouring parcel is only producing 1er Crus. A parcel of vineyards is definitely quite different from a parcel of meadow in a Dutch polder.

Working in the vineyards of Givry
The Château de Rully is not just a mediaeval castle, it is also a wine château. It is beautifully located amidst the vineyards, and in July and August they accommodate individual visitors at € 8.00 pp.

The Rully castle set amongst the vineyards
The hamlet of Agneux forms almost an integral part of Rully, and has a little chapel. The chapel is in private hands, hence cannot be visited. However, it is visible from the road, and although neither Agneux nor the chapel are easily to be found, why not pop by when one is in the vicinity?

The chapel in Agneux
When traveling from the South direction Changy or Beaune one passes through the village of Fontaines. On one of the first street corners another chapel can be found, almost perched against the house of the owner. Again, no spectacular buildings, but not every building can resemble the Empire State Building…

The chapel in Fontaines
Churches which are undoubtedly entirely Romanesque can be found a stonethrow away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Making up the balance

As mentioned earlier, the time has come to slowly start making up the balance for the Romanesque churches in 71. To ease searching a bit I have created a map which has been cut down to the bone. It contains only the churches still to be seen, including opening times and phone numbers of the town halls.

Romanesque churches around Chagny
The amount of churches still to be visited is manageable. They are mainly 3-star churches of which I have not yet seen the interior, similarly a few 2-star churches, and last but not least a handful of churches, chapels or buildings for which no assessment has been made yet. On top of that there are only a few 3 or 2 star churches which I have not yet visited at all. Around Changy there is quite a big cluster of those sort of buildings, but our latest visit has reduced the number of buildings to be visited considerably. The first map in this blog shows all churches in the area; the second shows today’s status. Having said this, the pictures are a bit distorted by the fact that I have removed an occasional church of the second map, because there is no information at all about that church available. Often the building has most likely been demolished completely, or it may be recognisable from a window, which is all that remains in al old building, but in which building?

Romanesque churches (te be visited) around Chagny
The qualitative harvest of this latest trip was mediocre. We visited (in the order we toured them) :
1. Givry, Cellier aux moines, a bulding which was findable, however, it was located on private property, and it could not be approached.
2. Fontaines, the village church. The key was not available at the mairie, but they phoned the key keeper for us. It turned out to be the only building we saw from the inside, with hardly any Romanesque remains. It was assessed at 1 star after our visit.

Fontaines : remains of a Romanesque chapel
3. Fontaines, chapel. At the mairie they explained us where it could be found. It turned out to be private property, behind a wall.
4. Rully, the château. It could be visited, but the only Romanesque part was the donjon. And to pay € 8 entrance fee just to see a donjon….
5. Agneux (Rully), chapel. Also on private property, hence not to be visited.
6. Maizières, building of a former abbey. All buildings were obscured by a tall stone wall, and hence invisible.

Maizières : wall around the abbey?
7. Saint-Loup-de-la-Salle, a 3-star church I did not know. Unfortunately closed, hence it will stay on the map a little longer.
The map with all churches also shows :
Churches visited a long time ago : Germolles, Chagny, Farges-lès-Chalon, La Loyere, Lessard-le-National, Bouzeron, Mellecey, Touches.
Canceled, because not wotrth seeing : Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu.
Saved for a next visit : Remigny, Chaudenay, Saint-Loup-de-la-Salle (interior), Mellecey (interior).
Well, we are getting there slowly!

Churches which are undoubtedly entirely Romanesque can be found a stonethrow away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle.