Southwest of our location in Ardeche is Les Vans, a village at the center of a region with some quite interesting churches. Here is where the land becomes mountain and valley. The gem of this region of interesting churches is Thines, whose magnificent Romanesque church is considered to combine perfectly the elements of Romanesque architecture, sculpture and decoration.
Summaries are courtesy of the Vans tourism office.
Nestling in the village which has retained its character, the Romanesque church is one of the oldest in the Pays des Vans , and is dedicated to St James the Elder. It is typical of primitive Romanesque art, and has been been destroyed many times, a victim of many historical events over the centuries, and especially of the instable ground. Side chapels were added in the 19 th century, partly to act as buttresses. Like the village as a whole, it is built on a rocky outcrop made up of various strata of hard limestone and soft marl.
This village at the foot of the Serre de Barre , is right in the middle of an transition area between the Vivarais and the mountain. The church presents a unique and original mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. It dates from the 12 th century and was listed in 1907. The buttress bellfry reaches a height of 27 m, and dates from the second half of the 16 th century. Impacts from the Protestants’ arquebuses are still visible. The doorway, with its ogee arches is flamboyant, and similar to that of the church in Les Salelles. Inside, the nave has two barrel vaulted bays. The columns are supported by historiated capitals and reach up to 9.40 m. In the centre of the choir is the Tree of Jesse, sculpted in stone and representing the genealogical tree of Christ starting with Jesse, King David’s father. The walls surrounding the gold-plated altar are decorated with fresques and illuminations. The fine houses in the village and hamlets, are evidence of the once prosperous times of silk-worm breeding.
This grandiose site in the heart of the Cevennes has a wild beauty of its own. The village with its schist houses perched on a rocky outcrop dominates the valley of the river Thine. The church dates from the 12 th century and is dedicated to Our Lady of Thines. It is a jewel of architecture, sculpture and decoration. Built in light granite and red and beige sandstone, it brings together all the elements which typify the beauty of Romanesque art. It is difficult to find another church combining elements that are usually separate, in such a way as to create an architectural master-piece.
The village has kept many traces of the past. You come to it over a 12 th century bridge probably built by the monks of St Giles Abbey in the Gard. The church dates from the 13 th century, and contains a rich variety of remarkable pictoral modillions. It nestles against the castle, famous for its French gardens designed by students of Le Nôtre (who designed Vaux-le-Vicomte). The architecture of the castle, the small village squares and narrow twisting lanes give character to this well-preserved place.