Romanesque Church Hunt Looking for churches and other France adventures.

February 22, 2008

Our magical day at Garde Adhémar

Church Report

Last year I wrote a “Church Preview” on this beautiful church in Drome Provencale, but all the research in the world could not prepare one for the beauty of this church, perched overlooking the Rhone and on every side, exquisitely manicured gardens on terraces on many levels.

We arrived at the church and there were people starting to assemble, we discovered shortly later that there was to be a funeral at the church. We have stumbled into baptisms, weddings and now a funeral during our Romanesque travels — all these events serve to highlight the relationship of these edifices to their villages. How many generations have had their most significant events in these thousand-year-old sentinels?

Here is a photo of the interior of the church right before the service.

Garde Adhemar

And then when you step out of the church…
Garde Adhemar entrance

Vistas in every direction and carefully labeled plantings.

Garde Adhemar botanical garden

We spent quite a while discovering all the nooks and crannies at this beautiful garden. We were happy to give our compliments to one of the gardeners who was working there.

Garde Adhemar botanical garden

And in one direction is a view of the Tricastin nuclear plant. To American eyes, these power plants are startling but the idea of nuclear power is business as usual and of no special negative import in France. In this stretch of the Rhone between Avignon and Lyon are three major nuclear power plants. As one drives between Avignon and Lyon, you can tic them off one by one.  Even more surprising than Tricastin is the plant at Cruas, about 35 miles north.  It is situated directly on the banks of the Rhone and one of the major traffic arteries passes so close that you could almost toss a pebble and hit it.

Nuclear plant in the Rhone Valley - Tricastin



February 12, 2008

More Aleyrac photos

Filed under: Church Reports,Drome - Churches — Karen @ 1:18 pm

Church Report

The experience of of seeing a Romanesque ruin is very unique. The air of mystery surrounding the church is almost palpable. Contrary to what you might think, ruins are not that common. My guess would be once a church collapsed centuries ago, the stones might have been used for other construction.

Here are some more photos taken on-site. This beautiful haunting ruin was one of our first stops in 2007.

Aleyrac - Interior


Aleyrac - Exterior










February 7, 2008

Thanks to Arthur!

Filed under: Drome - Churches — Karen @ 1:00 pm

Last year we visited Drome Provencale and Ardeche, but I did not post much after our return because I somehow ruined the memory card with all my photos. What a disaster! I could see the photos in the camera but my card reader would not recognize the “device”. My colleague at work, Arthur, volunteered to give it a try and he was able to rescue almost all of the “Churches of 2007”. Many of them were ones that I had wrote previews about before our trip.

I salute Arthur and amongst the many topics will now be some looks back at 2007. To clarify the “before” research and the “after” reports, I’m going to start labeling the posts as “Church Preview” and “Church Report 2007.” The previews will be all the information I am able to gather from here and there on the Internet about a specific church and town. The photos will often be uncredited ones that I found in obscure locations (note: I’m more than willing to credit any photo whose creator comes forth!). The “Church Reports” will be thoughts on actual visits to the churches and the photos will be mine.

An now, a photo from a church visit in 2007, thanks to Arthur!

The Prieure d’Aleyrac in Drome Provencale

Prieure d’Aleyrac



I will post some more thoughts on this magnificent ruin in my next post.


May 29, 2007

St Paul Trois Chateaux

Filed under: Drome - Churches,Uncategorized — Karen @ 11:57 am

cathedrale.jpgThe Cathedral of Notre Dame & St Paul was classified as a historic building in 1841 then restored under Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870). Its construction dates from the 11th century and lasted until the beginning of XIIIe, i.e. at the height of the Romanesque architecture characterized by a “imposing sobriety”.

Built out of calcareous stone, the dimensions are masterly: 45m length for 18m broad and 20m height. On the southernmost porch, principal entry of the Cathedral, one can note the presence of a sundial. Marks left by the stone masons, show the mode of remuneration of the time. Inside the Cathedral, one will be able to observe a mosaic paving the chorus and representing Jerusalem, of the Gothic frescos going back from XIVe and XVe century, many low-reliefs as well as the old wood furnace bridge covered with sheet with gold (1663) and Harmonium (1704).

Detail from the Cathedral.

May 27, 2007

A Cute Little Chapel at Tulette

Filed under: Drome - Churches — Karen @ 4:08 pm


Notre Dame of the Roare

Although a precise date of construction is not available for this chapel, its style is of the earliest type of Romanesque construction. In addition, historians of the church connect to it to Benedictine history–it is part of the order of Cluny and nearby churches were established in Pont St Esprit in 948. Notable in this small chapel is the stained glass which is an ancient copy of the even older original. It represents a pair of oxen with their Master, kneeling in front of a large roure (oak) in the hollow of which a Madonna is sheltered. This stained glass evokes a reason that this priory might have been constructed. Below is a re-telling of the legend.

The Legendfontaine.png
A ploughman cultivated his field bordered by an edge of old oak tree: Whenever the oxen arrived at the end of their furrow, close to the tree they knelt: astonished the ploughman excavated and in one of the hollows, found a statue of the Madonna. Overjoyed at the sight of this miraculous lucky find, he carried it to his village. But in the morning, the Madonna was back in the hollow of the oak. Several other villagers attempted to take it and it was again returned to its niche in the oak. It was decided that a sanctuary should be built in the shadow of miraculous oak. The statue remained within the Vault and so the chapel was named Notre Dame of Roure. (Our Lady of the Oak.)

Practical notes
At the tourist office, they say it is open from 4-5 in the summer, but it’s possible that might mean only July & August. There is a market on Monday mornings.

Below, the market in an old postcard.



Filed under: Drome - Churches — Karen @ 1:21 am

Church PreviewThis is a very curious little town. There’s not much out there on this town, but there is a homegrown site by the grandson of Eugene Martin, a famous Provencal writer.  The town has an old town, partially in ruins, on the top of the hill and the newer village is below.

Besides a romaneque church with a prominent bell tower, the writer also talks about two chapels that seem to be on the roads to-and-from the town. But the curious part is that I can’t really find very much information. But here’s what I’ve found — the chapels are very choice!

The church at the top of the village among the ruins:


And here’s an antique postcard of the ruins. I love finding these old cards because they are so evocative and also interesting to compare to the current condition. I think that we sometimes forget that not all of these structures were maintained since the 11th century! Many were ravaged in the the French revolution.


Notre-Dame de Pitié or Notre Dame de Barquets (below)
This vault dedicated to Notre-Dame de Pitié, or of the seven pains, named formerly Notre-Dame of Baïsses, i.e. Our-lady of in bottom. It would have been built in X1e century. In 1710 it was restored and equipped with a bell-tower. It is located on the antique sees Roman: St Paul-3-Castles-Grignan. It would seem that this hamlet is populated since the Gallo-Roman time. Later it was named “Barquets” name of an inhabitant of the district. <>La chapelle Saint-Claude (below)
Located on an old Roman way connecting Orange РGrignan, road much used in the Middle Ages, skirting the river of Lez, a hotel trade was built there with the use of the carriers. However, the history reveals us, that a muleteer was assassinated there. The landlord gave up his residence; The muleteers to entreat misfortune and to preserve the memory of their fellow-member, built in this place a small oratory. This small vault (IX̩me century) was dedicated to St Claude which is their guard and their Saint. Very dilapidated, in 1940 it was skilfully restored.

May 25, 2007

RANDONNEES autour de Clansayes (Walk Around Clansayes)

Filed under: Drome - Churches,Roman Ruins — Karen @ 10:41 pm

I found this description of a walk from Clansayes that takes all the glories of clan_steanne.jpgthis ancient place.

From the Randoguide of the Drome.
The circuits are marked by yellow and white triangles with the number of the circuit on the inside.. (Maps are available and free at the Mairie.)

Toronne La Templière :

On the traces of the Romans, Ligurians and Chevaliers Templar, plunging from the village of Clansayes toward the Valley of the Rhone and the Monts du Vivarais. 5.5 km Time: 1h:30 Easy
Departs: Parking in the North of the Village (near the cemetery)

clan_templarchapel.jpgHere’s the path which I attempted to translate, but it was becoming even murkier than in a foreign language. The Google translation is at the bottom. I think you would be better off following the markers!

Descendre D571, 10mn après, dans courbe : prendre sentier en face. Aux trois intersections : tout droit. Aux 2 Y suivants, prendre chemins de gauche (entre eux: accès Notre Dame Toronne* – libre choix de monter jusqu’à la chapelle puis de revenir). Contourner vignes et atteindre crête, croisement 100 m après : prendre à gauche chemin caillouteux qui suis crête à distance pendant 30 mn. Puis route pendant 10 mn. Après truffiers, chemin à gauche, 5 mn de descente. Au T : à droite vers route. A 30 m à gauche, chemin puis sentier à droite dans chênes verts vous ramène au cimetière et parking.

* chemin de croix dans la montée. Au sommet : chapelle romane de Toronne et panorama (30 mn)
• Sur le parcours : Eglise XIIe et vieux village. Vestiges de voies romaines (au Nord du Parking). Chapelle de Toronne.clan_salle.jpg

To descend D571, 10mn after, in curve: to take path opposite. With the three intersections: straight. To 2 Y following, to take ways of left (between them: access Notre Dame Toronne* – free choice to go up to the vault then to return). To circumvent vines and reach peak, crossing 100 m afterwards: to take stony way on the left which am remote peak during 30 mn. Then road during 10 mn. After truffle, way on the left, 5 mn of descent. With T: on the right towards road. To 30 m on the left, way then path on the right in holm oaks brings back for you to the cemetery and carpark. * way of cross in the rise. At the top: Romance vault of Strands and panorama (30 mn) • On the course: XIIe church and old village. Vestiges of Roman ways (in the North of the Carpark). Vault of Strands.

Back to Clansayes

Filed under: Dolmens & Other Archeological Tidbits,Drome - Churches — Karen @ 10:37 pm

Finally it’s time to go into Clansayes in detail. This tiny town is just chock-a-block full of interesting things and promises a full day of enjoyable exploration.clansayestower.jpg
First, let’s talk about the mammoth tower. Clansayes is perched on a rocky outcrop, a strategic advantage in the wild and wooly dark ages. This tower was built in . Solidly constructed, it remains almost totaly intact. It is topped by a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary which was placed there in 1853 by devout villagers.

Adjacent to the tower is the 11th century Eglise de St Michel, a prime Romanesque specimen.
Wandering around the village, there is also an interesting wall carved drawing of a cat, who’s origins are a source of debate.


<>We can also hope to see traces of Roman roads that are nearby.

Following a tour of the village, we can embark on a 1.5 hour hike to walk over to the next hilltop, viewable from the village, where Knights Templar, in the 13th century, built a charming chapel which today is the site of a yearly pilgrimage. The walking tour follows in the next post which goes from the village to this spot. See more pix of this amazing place in the walking tour post.Also on the hilltop are a 19th century shrine and a well in rough stone construction.Clansayes is truly an adventure!

Following the “more” is some detailed history of Clansayes. (more…)

May 23, 2007

La Garde-Adh̩mar РPart 2

Filed under: Drome - Churches — Karen @ 12:12 pm

Two kilometers outside of town ( on the D572 A) east of St-Michel chapel, on the are the ruins of the 12th-century Chapelle de Val-des-Nymphes. In Gallo-Roman days this spot was probably a pagan shrine, as the name implies.


The roof and arches of the single-aisled Romanesque chapel are gone, but it still retains its character.

The west front is remarkable; above simple wall surfaces – the val1.jpgarch of the doorway has keystones from a Roman building – the tympanum has three niches, separated by fluted pilasters with imitation Classical capitals. The arches which support the corner pilasters are later additions. Of interest is the articulation of the choir apse by blind arcades on two levels.At some point in the history of this ancient place, the populace lived in this valley but fled to the protection of the fortified village.

I’ve just discovered the most marvelous photo archive, The Merimee Patrimonial Archive of the Ministry of Culture. These photos are from that archive. I can hardly wait to see what else is available there.

La Garde-Adh̩mar РPart 1

Filed under: Drome - Churches,Drome - Other Items of Interest — Karen @ 11:42 am

gardeadhemar1.jpgLa Garde-Adhémar is an ancient village just several miles away from our rental house. In addition to being labeled one of ‘the most beautiful villages in France’, it has not one, but TWO Romanesque churches. The Romanesque beauty atop the walled village, perched on a promontory overlooking the Rhone, is Eglise of St. Michel. It is notable for its three naves.

And the icing on the cake for this church is that terraced below it is a delightful and very French botanical garden. Stay tuned for Le Garde Adhemar, Part 2.

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