Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ecclesiastical road-trip part I

As promised here is the first part of our trip on Friday.

Our first stop was at the delightful church,'L'église Notre-Dame de Rivière ' in the village of the same name. Our attention was first drawn to this by a previous guest at one of our gites (we should really have been telling them!) then by a blog by Colin and Elizabeth. I am not a great lover of total renovation work on historical buildings ( am I alone in actually preferring the old Chinon castle) but you cannot help but admire this 18th century reworking of the inside of the church.

Apparently the church is the earliest shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the whole of France   ( third century).

As C&E pointed out to get a few of the rear of the church,the front elevation is  nondescript, you either have to go along the river or along a lane to the right of the church. You cannot actually walk around the church as it now appears to be part of a gite complex!

 We then retraced our route back along the river Vienne to the village of  Tavant to view the frescos of its Romanesque 'Église Saint-Nicolas de Tavant'.

We had been here in the summer but made the mistake of visiting it on a Tuesday - its a National monument of France  - they all close on a Tuesday! We were determined to see it this time. On arrival however it was locked up though there was a sign saying you could go to the Mairie where a guide could be found to open up for you. Only problem was that the last 'viewing' was at 11.45am as it closed at lunchtime - gues what time it was? There was a sign in front of the wall of the building opposite that let you know parking there was for employees of the Mairie only - but this proved to be a red herring as they were residential buildings -perhaps the previous Marie? As my fellow explorers wandered around in search of the real place I knocked on one of the doors to ask the owner a question I know he must have answered 100's of times - his answer was a well worn one but given in a friendly manner. It was down the lane then first on the right - abandoning the others I ran down the lane arrive 5 minutes after the allotted time but the young woman probably saw the determined look in my eyes and agreed to follow me back to the church.

The inside was quite simple until you reached its altar with its frescoed dome ceiling but the main attraction here lies in the small crypt of the church.Entrance to the church is free but there is a charge of 3 euros/person to get the door of the crypt open. Once inside, which is very small you are given a chart and translation of the frescos which now look down on you. These are apparently unique in the stories they depict - you will have to judge for yourself in terms of appeal, though, from a historical point of view, fascinating.Crypts in France we were later told, have two uses - one as tombs and the other like here in Saint-Nicolas to house relics brought back from the crusades. It was certainly too small to hold many bodies.We had thought that the little nooks in the side walls were for holding small statues but no,in the past these would have been opened up as windows to view the relics contained inside.You were not allowed to take pictures so you will have to visit to see for yourself. As we were leaving we couldn't help but wonder if it might have been better to have visited here before going on to the church at Rivière - there might have been less of an anti-climax.

Part III to follow...

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