Saturday, 7 November 2015

Because we had an hour to spare

Notre-Dame - La Rochepot
The day we were going to see, in this order, Saint-Sernin-du-Bois (museum), Dracy-lès-Couches (church ruins in the middle of nowhere) and Collonge-la-Madeleine (church interior) there was quite a big time slot between the one but last and the last place.

Château - La Rochepot
Waiting for over an hour in the burning sun, or looking for a terrace which are rathe scarce in this area, or trying to find still another church in area where we seemed to have seen everything was no real option. However, when I had a look at the map, I noticed that we were very near the Côte d'Or, and even better, near La Rochepot. And La Rochepot had a church we did not know yet!

And that is how we ended up in La Rochepot, well before 14h00, where we easily found the church which I had only seen once from the high-up Château La Rochepot (well worth a visit as well, by the way). we were lucky; the church was open, and the capitals in the church were well worth the trip.

Balaam and the angel
A number of them tell a story, others have foliage or animal motifs. The church itself is interesting, the inside as well as the outside. And, from the grave yard, one looks up at the very picturesque château. After having visited the church, we were still well in time for our appointment at the mairie in Collonge-la-Madeleine!

Notre-Dame chevet
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Mont-Saint-Vincent – Musée Archéologique Jean Régnier

The museum is open between April and Oktober, Saturdays and Sundays from 15h00 till 18h00, and is free as well.

The museum
The collection of this tiny museum consists of amongst others a Merovingian sarcophagus from Curtil-sous-Burnand, a number of small and larger pieces of flint stone and some old coins, whilst the first floor is dedicated to Romanesque architecture.
The first time we visited this museum was with a big group of people of the Tourist Office in Saint-Gengoux.

During this first, very brief visit we thought that the first floor had not much more but a collection of scale models, drawings and photographs of the churches of Mont-Saint-Vincent and Gourdon. Still, the maker of Bourgogne Romane thought that there might be more Romanesque stuff in this museum.

Ground floor
From a completely different blog it may be clear that we had undertaken another attempt to pay a second visit to this museum.

First floor
Finally we decided to try out luck once more, this time on our way back from a visit to a former brick factory in Ciry-le-Noble. This time we hit the jackpot. The museum was open, and the ground floor certainly had no Romanesque items, hence we decided to look upstairs. At the bottom of the stairs there were two light switches, taped off with cello tape and a notice saying "Do not touch!".

The chair
It looked as if switching on the lights might cause a short circuit somewhere. Hence we had to investigate the top floor with the light shining through the windows. The scale models, drawings and pictures were still there, but in a dark corner we found a kitchen chair with three pieces of stone and a sign telling us that these were "Rare remains of the priory". Next to it, on a wooden pedestal, there was a modillon with an Atlante.

75 % of the collection
According to Wikipedia: In classical European architecture, an atlas (also known as an atlant, or atlante or atlantid; plural atlantes) is a support sculpted in the form of a man, which may take the place of a column, a pier or a pilaster. The term atlantes is the Greek plural of the name Atlas – the Titan who was forced to hold the sky on his shoulders for eternity.
So this appeared to be the whole Romanesque collection of the museum. However, one has to admit that a museum where the Romanesque remains easily fit on a kitchen chair is certainly something special!

The remaining 25%
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Paray-le-Monial – Chapelle Saint-Michel

The Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Paray-le-Monial is normally open to the public, with the exception of the Chapelle Sait-Michel above the narthex.

Chapelle Saint-Michel
This chapel is only accessible during a guided tour, each day in July and August at € 5.00 pp. Reason enough to plan a re-visit of the church around these dates and around this hour. The tour starts in the narthex, and goes from there to the chapel, the church itself, the cloister gardens and the renaissance townhall.

We had chosen not to go during the weekend, to avoid the crowds. Of course we were not aware, that on our weekday the pilgrims taking part in a number of lectures and readings stretching over a number of days would be given the afternoon off. We were not really the only ones who had taken the tour….

An extensive description of church and chapel can be found on Bourgogne Romane. The chapel looks out over the nave and the choir, a sight that can only be enjoyed during a visit like this. The chapel itself is rather sober, but it has a number of impostes each with its own specific decoration.

Hint for planning a visit: try to find out when there is a pilgrimage, and try to avoid those days!

Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Musée Raymond Rochette – Saint-Sernin-du-Bois

One does not stumble every day on a museum that can only be visited on reservation.

We were quite surprised when we found out after a long internet search that we had to make an appointment to see this particular museum. That could be done through one of these internet contact forms, or by phone during an hour on Monday evening that the Association " Amis de Saint-Sernin-du-Bois" was available for consultation. That sounded quite complicated (most older French are still not very internet-competent), and we did not hold out much hope of hearing from the "Amis" after we put in our request on a Saturday.

Still, never say never, because in the course of Sunday we received an e-mail from one of them, who had been told by the President (well, not Hollande…) to contact us. After this, an appointment was quickly made; we wanted to combine this visit with Dracy-lès-Couches and Collonge la-Madeleine, where the mairie was only open on Monday or Thursday. Like good Dutchmen and -women we were half an hour early in Saint-Sernin, ready to see the museum.

The ground floor
M. Baur, our friendly and knowledgeable tour guide was also, very un-French, half an hour early, hence we did not have to wait very long at all. I had obtained a list of Romanesque matters to look out for from "Deep Throat", which was 100% accurate.

The collection Rochette
After we had looked at and photographed what we wanted to see (some Romanesque stones from Saint-Sernin and Gamay, but also the obligatory old school bench, old coins, obsolete tools, etc.) we were guided upstairs where the real collection of the museum was kept.

Workers at Schneider
Raymond Rochette happened to have been a local artist and painter who had painted a lot in the steel works of Schneider in Montceau-les-Mines; workers, machinery, etc. Not a van Gogh, but we had not expected that. All in all, thanks to these paintings this museum was just a trifle more interesting than the average run of the mill local museum of which every town has at least one. And if this had not been enough: from the roof terrace of the donjon that houses the museum there was a stunning view over the surroundings.

View of church and cemetery
Uitzicht over het kerkhof Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


Eglise Saint-Barthélémy- exterior
The problem with having seen almost all churches in Saône-et-Loire is that the remaining churches are located quite far apart, and hence it is difficult to combine a few churches in one visit. Dracy-lès-Couches is not very far from Collonge-la-Madeleine, hence I could at least combine those two places.

Eglise Saint-Barthélémy- interior
Having learned from previous experiences we had phoned the mairie a few weeks before to find out a) whether they had the key and were willing to hand them to us, and b) whether the mairie was indeed open the day we had planned. And that was a good idea as well. The secretary told us that since she often stayed later than required, she opened the mairie later as well. I was no use to go there at 15h00; before 15h30 there would be nobody there.

Eglise Saint-Barthélémy- interior
Although the timeslot between Dracy and Collonge could be filled with yet another church, we were at the mairie just after three. Fortunately the secretary was also a bit earlier than "normal" so we did not have to wait very long.
And even though the church interior was far from spectacular, it was interesting enough to justify the trip.
The result was also, that another church we had not been able to see from the inside could be scrapped from our to do list!

Eglise Saint-Barthélémy- interior
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


One of the walks around Dracy
On one of our quests in search of Romanesque churches we started to look for the former church of Dracy-lès-Couches (near Couches), or the remains there of. This is what we knew:
Dracy-lès-Couches : vieux-cimetière (East side): pans de mur, tombes. Church has been demolished and was replaced by a new one elsewhere; do not bother to go to the new church.
After having done some research we found that one of the signposted walks around Dracy was passing by this ex-church; we found the walk on the internet and we had even spotted some reference on a map to "Ruines Eglise". One would think that after this information the church should not be difficult to find….

The signpost
Based on the above we went to Dracy in July 2014, and lo and behold, we found a signpost saying "Ruines Eglise 300 m". We slithered down the path (it had been continuously raining for the last few weeks, turning the paths into mud covered tracks) and at approx. 300 m we stopped at a gate, with another very muddy path leading to the left and an overgrown bit of woods on the right. Since the paths were so impassable we decided to stop there, again trying to locate an old cemetery left or right from the path we walked down to go back to the car. No need to say that this did not reveal anything; we decided to wait for the dry season and go back again one day.

The signpost disappeared!
That day came, almost spot on, one year later. Our department had suffered from a severe heat wave for a number of weeks by then, without one drop of rain, hence the paths should be no problem this time. However, the pole where we had seen the sign "Ruines Eglise 300 m" was still there, but the sign had disappeared. Only the fixing clips were still there. The paths were no problem this time, and at what we thought to be roughly the 300 m point we took the path to the right for another 300 m, went back, then went down a dry ditch for 200 m, an turned back again.

The path is on the left, the shrubs with the church and graveyard are on the right
On the point where we had turned off to the left however, there was a heap of old stones on the right hand side, at the bottom of the slightly higher wooded area. I thought that this might well be the "remains" of the church, took a picture of it and was about to walk back to the car. My better half however is blessed with a bit more patience than I can muster, and she had disappeared in between the trees behind "my" heap of stones. After a few minutes she shouted "I found it!".

When I climbed the low hill I saw her stooped over some gravestones, hence she had found the cemetery. From "my" heap of stones we then found the foundation of a wall running east-west, and following the foundation we indeed found some heavily overgrown small remains of what must have been the wall of the church. So we had finally found that church! One would say: and, was it worth it? That is debatable, but the picnic we had afterwards certainly was worth the trip!

Part of the church wall
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


How the French manage to create adjectives which are not or with great difficulty to be traced back to their basis will remain one of life's mysteries.

Abbaye de Cîteaux
A simple example: what are the inhabitants of the Île-de-France called? Franciliens of course! These sort of questions are quite popular in French quiz programs.
Slightly more farfetched is "cistercien", derived of course from Cîteaux, a place not far from Dijon, where the Cistercian monastic (Benedictine) order was founded. This order was at some stage heavily opposed to the Cluniac order, a monastic order, as one might have guessed, from Cluny. Cluny, according to the abbots of Cîteaux, had deviated too far from the rules of Benedict (ora et labora, pray and work).

Abbatiale - Cîteaux
The Cistercian order had, like its Cluniac opposite, many daughters and grand-daughters, of which a number in Provence are still in good order, and there are even a few abbeys operational (such as Sénanque).
The Cistercian monasteries were all built according to a similar plan. One could call them the inventors of modular building. The original Mother monastery Cîteaux ceased to exist around the French revolution, but was reinstated at the end of the 19th Century.

Officie - Cîteaux
Unfortunately almost all mediaeval buildings (such as the abbey church, cloister, etc.) are demolished, and rebuilt in a modern style. Despite this we always had in mind to visit this mother monastery of which we had seen so many daughters. There are organised tours, which can be booked through Internet.
As we had expected, apart from the library and the noviciat there were no other old buildings on the site.

Chapelle - Cîteaux
The tour starts in the reception area, where an excellent photo exhibition gives an overview of the very strict time table for the day as written down by Benedictus. After this introduction to the monastic life an overview is given of where the Cistercians are active nowadays (that is, outside Europe, in countries like Indonesia, the USA, South-America, etc.).
Next is a short visit to the cells on the ground floor of the library, and a more extensive visit to the first floor, which hosts a lovely collection of copies of illuminated letters (the originals are in Dijon).

Library - Cîteaux
The noviciat shows a number of things the monks occupy or occupied themselves with, and finally there was a film about monastic life.
Of the original (wooden) church only the foundation outline (in reinforced concrete) can be seen, and the same goes for the former hospital. In a few words: those interested in the history and development of Cîteaux will be a bit disappointed. Those however interested in the religious background of the monks of Cîteaux are being served well.

Kestrel - Cîteaux
Still, it is an interesting experience wondering around those historical grounds….
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A revisit

For reasons too complicated to even try to explain (the main reason being curiosity) we decided to pay the Eglise Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption in Gourdon another visit.

Luxure (lust)
The first time we had heard about this church dates years back, when guests we had staying in one of our gîtes told us that they wanted to visit that church because it was quite extraordinary. We visited the church for the first time also in 2007.
The purpose of this particular visit was to have a good look at the capitals, of which there are approx. 90 present, where I had photographed only 17 on previous visits. On a nice sunny day we packed the car with our picnic gear and drove off to Gourdon.

Monstres anguipèdes (lower part of the body has the form of a snake)
My usual source gave me the following hint: "Gourdon has mainly groups of primitive capitals, with lots of similar lions, monsters, human heads and floral motives, with occasionally a human figure.".

That was correct, however, there is also a handful of capital depicting well-known themes, such as some of the capital sins and other vices, such as lust, temptation, greed, slander, promiscuity.

Monstres léonins à face humaine (lion-like creatures with human faces)
This information, and where to find those particular capitals I found in a brochure available in the church. Apart from those capitals this church also boasts a number of frescoes or what is left of them. The church itself is very light, which makes studying the various decorations relatively easy.
On the outside there is quite a bit of sculpture to be seen as well; there is big number of modillons adorning the roof edges; they show geometrical patterns, but also human and animal heads, floral motives, wood shavings motive, etc.

Even the corbels supporting the roof edge of the bell tower (1889!) are richly sculpted.
After having looked around for a good three quarters of an hour we installed our camping table and chairs in the shadow of the church and enjoyed our well-earned picnic. When I got home I still had quite a job sorting out and manipulating between 150 and 200 pictures. And only then I realised that in my eagerness to photograph everything in an organised way that I had missed out on two capitals, in a high window just above the entrance to the church!

Roof edge of the bell tower
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Birthday outing

One of the habits I took up from my partner is to organise a special outing on my birthday, instead of spending the whole day as if it were a normal working day.

Sainte-Madeleine, facade
One of the things I had on my list for a long time was Vézelay. We had been there twice, once in 2004 and once in 2007. Strangely enough I had only 5 (five!) pictures of Vézelay in my archives, which given the fact that I have never been shy when it comes to shooting lots of pictures is very strange, to say the least. The church obviously had not made an unforgettable impression on me. Reason enough to drive for two and a half hours to renew the acquaintance. In view of the long trip we headed off quite early, hence we were in time in Vézelay to attend the mass, which was sung utilizing Gregorian chants.

Sainte-Madeleine, narthex
A one hour mass was a bit too much for me; after 10 minutes I disappeared in order to have a good look at the exterior of the basilica and at the narthex. After half an hour I was joined by my partner, and together we admired the capitals of the narthex. By the time the mass was over we decided to go for lunch, and after having eaten we wandered through the mediaeval streets back to the basilica.

There we had ample time to view the inside of the church and the beautiful capitals. Unfortunately the crypt was temporarily closed for maintenance, and it would only be re-opened in a couple of weeks. Why I ever had considered this church to be not very interesting became a bigger riddle with each view and each new capital I saw…. Well, to err is human, is not it?

In the meantime the Musée de l'oeuvre Violet Le-Duc had opened its doors. The museum hosts a number of original capitals of which a copy is installed in the church itself (however, the basilica has an immense number of original capitals). This museum turned out to be very interesting as well.

La Cordelle
After the basilica we wandered off to find a chapel located just outside the walls of Vézelay, La Cordelle or La Chapelle de Sainte-Croix. The path to the chapel came past the spot where a cross was erected in memory of the call to arms for the second crusade by Bernard of Clairvaux in 1146.

Monument Bernard of Clairvaux
Although Vézelay turned out to be very interesting indeed, we decided that it was time to go home, after a long trip, an exhaustive visit to basilica and museum and another long trip in store. Well, go home…

Saint-Père, Notre Dame
Via Bourgogne Romane I had received a clue saying that Saint-Père boasted an interesting Gothic church, something not very common in Burgundy. And since we passed through Saint-Père on the way back, why not make a brief stop there? Between the parking area where we had abandoned the car and the Notre-Dame we bumped into the remains of an old Romanesque church, the Saint-Pierre.

Saint-Père, Saint-Pierre

This day out had been a great success; pity only, that the crypt had been closed….
Click here for the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle.