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Romanesque churches in Charente - Romanesque glory

Romanesque churches in Charente - Romanesque glory

23 Jul 2013 BY Tim Wells

Romanesque was the first major architectural style to emerge from the Dark Ages and proliferate across nearly all of Europe, from the north of the British Isles to southern Sicily. Characterized mainly by its distinctive semicircular arches, it spread throughout France largely under the influence of the powerful Abbey of Cluny, whose network of monasteries was dotted along the southward-bound pilgrimage routes of St-Jacques-de-Campostela. One of these main routes descended from Paris through the Charente, especially in the Saintonge, and here we find a number of fascinating examples. In Angoulême, the Cathedral of St-Pierre was built between 1110 and 1128 by Bishop Gerard II, an artist, papal envoy, and general luminary of the time. It boasts an imposing bell tower, a glorious façade featuring over 70 sculptures; the nave also has no aisle, a common feature of the southern  French Romanesque. Poitiers has several fine examples, especially its 11th century church of Ste-Radegonde, a local patron saint who allegedly rests in the crypt, and St-Hilaire-le-Grand, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site, with a fine circular apse giving onto radiating chapels. At Aulnay-de-Saintonge, the Eglise St-Pierre features outstanding carved pillars, and a glorious south portal with parades of animals and fantastic beasts.


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