Romanesque Churches and Sunflower Fields in Western France

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

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.

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.

The Ibis in Saintes

River with Roman arch on the right

Roman arch (18 CE)

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

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.

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

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.


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Carvings over the south door:

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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.