Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Wonderful Wall Paintings!

 The final scene in the sequence of Christ being tempted by the Devil. I love the slightly sheepish aspect of the Devil and the somewhat peeved expression on Christ's face -- both are thinking 'oh no, not again...'
One morning in late March we were sitting around in the lobby of the Hotel Diderot in Chinon, waiting for our clients to finish breakfast. I noticed that there were some leaflets on the side table for a church with wall paintings that I had never heard of, so I picked one up and was immediately intrigued by what I read. By good luck the church was exactly on the route we planned to take with the clients, so we asked them if they would be interested in stopping there. We told them we had never seen this church, but it looked fascinating. They readily agreed, and so we made the wonderful discovery together.

A wider view of the various temptation episodes.
The church of Saint Martin in Lignières en Touraine is situated between Azay le Rideau and Langeais. It dates from the 12th century and inside is like a mini Saint Savin. The wall paintings are contemporary with the oldest parts of the church, but have been retouched several times, in the 13th and 14th centuries. They were professionally restored and conserved in 2008-09. The church is open every day and entry is free. If you want to illuminate the painted ceiling you put a €2 coin in a slot. That gives you about 10 minutes and we put in €4 in total.

Abel is blessed by a disembodied arm.
The paintings are utterly captivating. You don't need to be overly familiar with your Bible stories to identify what the paintings are illustrating, and anyway, there is a brief, but excellent guide (in French and English) available for visitors to read and fill in any details they are unsure of.

Panels from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man has died (centre left) and the monsterous dog like Devil lies in wait to take him to Hell.
Decorating the arch as you enter the apse is a series of boxes representing the months of the year. Lengthwise down the barrel vaulted ceiling are a series of 'cartoon' style stories -- Christ being tempted by the Devil, the story of Adam and Eve and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and the parable of the rich man (Dives) and the poor man (Lazarus). Over the altar is Christ in Majesty. On one of the window surrounds is Cain and Abel. The stained glass is 19th century, and the theme of the window now bears no relationship to the theme of the painting surrounding it, resulting in a disembodied hand blessing Abel. Antoinette explains in her post on Chez Charnizay that this was a convention to avoid having to portray God.

The angels gently and lovingly receive the soul of Lazarus, the poor man.
Naturally I immediately alerted Antoinette to the existence of this church, in the hope that she and Niall would go to visit soon and write one of their erudite posts about it. I am pleased to see that they have obliged.

Looking straight up, showing the story of Adam and Eve above and the rich man and Lazurus below.
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Next week is the annual national Fête de la Nature. This year's theme is 'small creatures'. Please support your local nature enthusiasts by attending an event near you.

10 comments:

  1. So... where are the events near here then!! There are none!! We are in a vacuum here... but the pré is open should you want a wander!

    Great post on the paintings... no wonder you spent 4€s!!

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  2. Tim: A goat farm at Ste Maure and Ethni'cité are our closest events.

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  3. Close to where we used to live – Hawkshead, Cumbria – is a church with some modest wall paintings. Nothing like as spectacular as the ones you've posted, but worth a look. There's a panoramic view of the interior here: http://www.satterthwaitepc.org.uk/chofstmichael.html

    The church's website: http://www.hawksheadbenefice.co.uk/hawkshead.htm

    Typically for a church on a hill, it's a St Michael's. Also there are afadavits that burials took place using wool. This was a a law passed to prop p demand for wool. Being a wool producing area, this was important. Anyway, lots to look at. It's also the church that Wordsworth would have attended when at the local school, which is next door.

    Close to where we live now (Worksop, Nottinghamshire) is a church with much more modern wall paintings: St Peter's at Clayworth.

    Website: http://www.stpetersclayworth.org/
    The Traquair Murals: http://www.stpetersclayworth.org/90265/info.php?p=8

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  4. Beautiful, interesting paintings, Susan. Thanks for posting about them.

    we have some visitors coming in August and they will be fascinated.

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  5. We've actually been there. We arranged to meet a lady selling a Henri II tall bedside table halfway between her place and ours and it turned out to be Saint Martin. She told us about the church and we went in. We were amazed! She also told us to go to Lavardin to see other frescoes but we haven't had time yet. Have you been there?

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  6. Fraussie: Lignieres is fabulous, isn't it? We haven't been to Lavardin -- it looks really worth visiting though.

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  7. What we really liked is the fact that as it is a small church you can get up close and personal. In bigger buildings you really need binoculars.

    When we visited there wasn't a leaflet to be seen! Hopefully it means they are getting a good stream of visitors.

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  8. Antoinette: Luckily when we first visited the info folder was sitting on the table in front of the altar. On our several subsequent visits it has been much less obvious, tucked away with the parish notices just to your right as you enter the church.

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  9. Is it just me, but I clearly see a faint, just sketched face on the right of the hand. The right eye is very clear, but not so much the left one. The nose is straight and there is definitely a mouth under it. You can see whiskers around the face. As I said, it is very faint and you have to enlarge the photo to see it clearly. I already noticed that on Niall’s and Antoinette’s blog. Tell me what you think.

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  10. chm: the enhanced photo you sent me certainly looks like a bearded face -- well spotted. Also I notice that 'God's' hand has a stigma which strikes me as a bit odd too. I'll try and get a close up shot next time we visit.

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