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Romanesque Churches and Sunflower Fields in Western France

Posted on July 11, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

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A sunflower field we visited this afternoon. Fun stuff.

Thursday: Moissac

On Thursday we made a short day trip from Toulouse to Moissac, home of an abbey church known for its excellent Romanesque sculptures.

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An exceptionally long-legged and graceful Prophet Jeremiah on the south portal. This guy shows up in every one of my books on Romanesque architecture.

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Funny little character elsewhere on the portal

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Some of the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse above the south door. Each of them holds a cup of perfume or a viola and crosses their legs differently. They are gazing up at a large Christ in Majesty above. Unfortunately, these sculptures are badly in need of a cleaning and apparently are never lit by the sun in midsummer.

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Annunciation and Visitation of Mary on the south portal

The cloisters, with an astounding array of beautiful capitals to photograph:

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Friday: Saintes

From Toulouse we had a long drive (about 3.5 hours) but it was pretty smooth and relaxing and went fast. Our destination was Saintes, where we stayed just one night in a boring old budget Ibis hotel. That gave us just enough time to send our packages home (finally) and explore the city a little before moving on. It was a pleasant enough city, with a couple churches of interest and a Roman arch overlooking a river. It was cool and cloudy the whole time and even rained for awhile.

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The Ibis in Saintes

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River with Roman arch on the right

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Roman arch (18 CE)

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Romanesque abbey church. We couldn't go inside because there was an all-evening-long concert going on as part of a music festival.

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The cathedral was just OK, but its cloister was way cool. This modern garden in the center gave it an Alice in Wonderland feel and there was a traditional band playing some great music as part of the festival.

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We had dinner in this Italian restaurant just off the main street

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The tuna-corn-olive-egg salads were fantastic. The pasta dishes that followed (tuna tagliatelli for me; lasagna for David) were good, but not super special.

Today: Saintes to Poitiers

Today we drove further north from Saintes to Poitiers, taking the scenic non-freeway route and stopping a few nice churches along the way. The countryside was quite pretty, with less vineyards than usual and more fields of wheat, corn, and beautiful sunflowers.

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The first church we stopped at, Aulnay-de-Saintonge, was very beautiful and beautifully located, and we had such a good time there. The country setting and old tombs in the churchyard brought back happy memories of village churches in England.

Outside:

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Carvings over the south door:

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Inside:

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Then we visited three more nice Romanesque churches in the town of Melle, but this is all I have time for tonight. It was a really fun day.