Romanesque Church Hunt Looking for churches and other France adventures.

April 14, 2008

Cruas Capitals

Filed under: Ardeche - Churches — Karen @ 11:39 am

One of the most astonishing adventures we have had on the Romanesque Church Hunt has been an unforgettable tour of the Cathedral of Cruas in 2007. Befriended by a erudite retired professer and a tourism office employee, we receive a magnificent tour of the edifice when we thought we had arrived too late to even go inside (we had–but these generous people allowed us a full tour after the official closing time). I will go into this memorable adventure in my next post, but for now, here are some capitals from Cruas.

Cruas Column


Cruas Column


Cruas Column

April 5, 2008

Excursion to the region of Les Vans

Filed under: Ardeche - Churches,Church Previews — Karen @ 5:22 pm

Church Preview

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.

Naves - Romanesque church near village of Naves

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.

Romanesque church at Gravieres, Ardeche


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.

Thines, Romanesque church, ArdecheTHINES

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.

My Favorite Columns

Filed under: Other Romanesque Delights — Karen @ 1:42 am

Time has been very hectic lately, so I decided to share a beautiful church from a few years back in Southwest France. These magnificent capitals are from Elne, a church very rich in sculpture and a delight to visit. Elne is close to Collioure, Banyuls and near the “Cote Vermeille”, the tiny bit of blessed Mediterranean coastline near the border of Spain. The light is spectacular and the Pyrenees loom as a backdrop. One of our favorite places for sure–whenever we rent in the southwest we always stay for at least 2 or 3 days in this wonderful area on the way to our rental house.

Here’s some of the delights of Elne:

Columns in Elne

Some beautiful and fanciful columns.

Capital Elne

Capitals with a stern angel and a cute turtle.

Capital with turtle

Elne effity

An effigy that was displayed in the cloister, although its original location was most
likely elsewhere.

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