The churches of the Vézère valley are little-known monuments but nevertheless endearing and very revealing of what religious architecture was like in the Perigord countryside in the Middle Ages.

Churches with bell towers in the Vézère Valley

In the analysis of these buildings we see an example of common features appear, notably in the simplicity of the plans of the Romanesque era : single nave often extended by a rectangular apse or the presence of a tower on the apse. 

The Romanesque churches of our valley have in common a great simplicity of plan, elevation and decor suited to the humility of the communities who built them. Most are small and humble except of course those of Saint-Amand de Coly (abbey) or paunat (abbey church), more important monuments. 

Abbey of Saint Amand de coly©Agence Urope

Let's set off to discover these Périgord jewels which have a common architectural element: the bell tower-wall

Placed at the top or at the front of the building, the wall is pierced with one or more bays intended to accommodate one or more bells:

…have this same type of construction where the bell, balanced by a heavy wooden yoke, makes complete revolutions, thus developing a very loud sound that can be heard from afar.

Lovers of Périgord and its old stones, you will be amazed by the religious heritage of the Vézère Valley

Romanesque art characterizes these sacred places, the forms are pure and sometimes a little severe but cut into a beautiful blond limestone and bright which is an asset of Périgord architecture. The rural church also symbolizes the existence of the commune itself, its bell tower represents the village. The bell tower-wall does not correspond to an economy of means for a population with low resources. The whole of Occitania has developed its own style by competing with churches with bell towers.

A church apart, Notre-Dame de Fontpeyrine

Church of Fontpeyrine_Tursac©ALR

The story of Fontpeyrine comes from an ox and his master who discovered a statuette of Mary at the bottom of a fountain. This was brought to the church of Tursac. Legend has it that the statuette returned by itself from the village to the fountain of stones (Fontpeyriere). A chapel was then built in the 1976th century near the fountain as well as certain elements of the statue placed above the fountain representing a character dressed in a sort of monastic robe (BSHAP, 258 p: XNUMX).

A miraculous church

A devastating storm fell on the region, sparing Tursac and Fontpeyrine. The parishioners vowed to go in procession to the sanctuary each feast of the Visitation and kept their word until the Revolution. On Pentecost Mondays and September 8, crowds gathered there. There were then up to 22 parishes in the small valley.

Some memorable/marking facts:
– In 1818, Mr. Mercier had the oratory built where the statue is located. Certainly following the so-called miraculous healing of a local teenager who offered the Virgin his crutches which had become useless.
– In 1826, Mgr de Lostanges, bishop of Périgueux, placed a ban on the chapel, following reports described as “light” (ecclesiastical scandals, gatherings of merchants in the chapel open to all winds).
– On December 8, 1845, the Fontpeyrine chapel was reopened for worship following its restoration made possible thanks to the generosity of the Carbonnière de Marzac family (of which it became the funeral chapel).
– Following its restoration, the ancient Virgin preserved in the church of Tursac was taken there. Then came the era of great pilgrimages which brought thousands of pilgrims to the paths of Fontpeyrine.
– In 1869, the chapel once again needed to be restored: “the holy remains of the ruins litter the sacred ground of Fontpeyrine”. A subscription was then opened.
– On June 21, 1875, hail spared Tursac. It was decided to celebrate a day of thanksgiving: 800 men were present.
– In 1889, thousands of candles burned around the chapel. The delegation from Valojoulx and Chapelle Aubareil had 500 pilgrims present.
– In 1891, there were 4 to 5000 faithful and twelve worthy ecclesiastics to hear confessions.
– In 1897, the priests advised their friends to take their provisions with them: “the divine Savior did not promise Fontpeyrine the multiplication of loaves! » Today the Fontpeyrine chapel is closed but continues to be maintained and used for religious officials, notably during the September 8 pilgrimage. You will still be able to observe it and let yourself be immersed in the legends of this place during a walk around the village of Tursac.

Zoom on the church of Mauzens and Miremont

This church with discreet charms has something captivating that transports you into a medieval time. The beginning of its construction dates from the 12th century and, like many other churches, will be subject to numerous developments. Jean Secret will say about him:

"…a sort of dungeon church, now unvaulted and much retouched: thus the flat buttresses only remain to the north. The entire eastern part of this church is a Gothic addition. The west is of Romanesque origin. A heavy bell tower -wall, with three campan bays, rests to the west of this Romanesque part which must have formerly ended with an apse, which gave way to three Gothic bays. The western portal was retouched in the 13th century."

If you like to get off the beaten track, visit the village of Mauzens-et-Miremont and his old woman St. Martin's Church hold out their arms to you.

The discreet treasure of Savignac-de-Miremont

Church of Savignac de Miremont©A. Borderie

Also dating from the 12th century, Saint-Denys church de Savignac-de-Miremont has also experienced many adventures. Its portal will not be definitive until the 24th century. A big surprise will await the curious who go there. Because it retains special furniture, notably a polychrome wooden altarpiece from the 1979th century, exhibition canopies and two statuettes from the main altar, classified as historic monuments since January XNUMX, XNUMX.

The church of Saint Eumach in Saint Chamassy

Saint Eumachus was a confessor of the 6th century, it is from this character whose church of Saint Chamassy gets its name. More recent than the previous churches, its beginnings date from the 12th century. The whole formed a whole with the stately home and was connected by a Gothic portal. The wars of religion took their toll on this harmonious ensemble, but successive restorations have given it its current charm. The curious will have the pleasure of discovering a way of the cross as well as a Christ dating from the 15th century.

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