The churches of the Vézère valley are little-known monuments, but they are nonetheless endearing and reveal a great deal about what religious architecture was like in the Périgord countryside in the Middle Ages.

Churches with wall steeples in the Vézère Valley

An analysis of these buildings reveals a number of common features, particularly in the simplicity of the floor plans. Romanesque period A single nave, often extended by a rectangular apse, or a tower over the apse. 

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

Abbey of Saint Amand de Coly©Agence Urope

Let's discover these jewels of the Périgord region, which share a common architectural feature: the bell tower-wall.

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

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...have the same type of construction where the bell, balanced by a heavy wooden yoke, makes complete turns, producing a very loud sound that can be heard from a distance.

If you love Périgord and its old stones, you'll be amazed by the religious heritage of the Vézère Valley.

Romanesque art characterises these sacred places, the forms are pure and sometimes a little severe, but carved in a beautiful stone. blond limestone and light, which is an asset for Périgord architecture. The rural church also symbolises the existence of the commune itself, and its steeple represents the village. The wall-belfry does not correspond to an economy of means for a population with few resources. The whole of the Occitanie region has developed its own style, competing with churches with tower belfries.

A church apart, Notre-Dame de Fontpeyrine

Church of Fontpeyrine_Tursac©ALR

The story of Fontpeyrine goes back to an ox and his master who discovered a statuette of Mary at the bottom of a fountain. It was taken to the church in Tursac. Legend has it that the statuette returned by itself from the village to the Fontpeyriere fountain. In the 14th century, a chapel was built near the fountain, along with certain elements of the statue placed above the fountain, representing a figure dressed in a kind of monastic coat (B.S.H.A.P, 1976 p: 258).

A miraculous church

A devastating storm swept through the region, sparing Tursac and Fontpeyrine. The parishioners made a vow to go in procession to the shrine every Feast of the Visitation, and kept their word right up until the Revolution. On Whit Monday and 8 September, crowds would flock to the shrine. At the time, there were as many as 22 parishes in the small valley.

Some memorable facts:
- In 1818, Monsieur Mercier had the oratory where the statue stands built. This was probably due to the miraculous healing of a local teenager who offered the Virgin his crutches, which had become useless.
- In 1826, Mgr de Lostanges, Bishop of Périgueux, banned the chapel following what he described as "slight" reports (ecclesiastical scandals, gatherings of merchants in the chapel open to the wind).
- On 8 December 1845, the Fontpeyrine chapel was reopened to worship following its restoration, made possible thanks to the generosity of the de Carbonnière de Marzac family (whose funeral chapel it became).
- Following its restoration, the ancient Virgin was taken there from the church in Tursac. Then came the era of the great pilgrimages, which brought thousands of pilgrims to Fontpeyrine.
- In 1869, the chapel was once again in need of restoration: "the holy debris of the ruins litter the sacred ground of Fontpeyrine". A fund-raising campaign was launched.
- On 21 June 1875, Tursac was spared a hailstorm. It was decided to celebrate a day of thanksgiving: 800 men attended.
- In 1889, thousands of candles burned around the chapel. The delegation from Valojoulx and Chapelle Aubareil numbered 500 pilgrims.
- In 1891, there were between 4 and 5,000 faithful and twelve worthy ecclesiastics to hear confessions.
- In 1897, the parish priests advised their pupils to take their provisions with them: "the divine Saviour did not promise Fontpeyrine the multiplication of the loaves! Today, the Fontpeyrine chapel is closed, but it continues to be maintained and used for religious ceremonies, notably the 8 September pilgrimage. You can still visit the chapel and soak up its legends on a walk around the village of Tursac.

Focus on the church of Mauzens et Miremont

There's something enchanting about this church with its discreet charms that transports you to the heart of the city. medieval times. It was first built in the 12th century and, like many other churches, underwent a number of changes. Jean Secret had this to say about it:

"...a kind of dungeon church, now devoted and much altered: thus the flat buttresses remain only on the north side. The entire eastern part of this church is a Gothic addition. The west side is of Romanesque origin. A heavy bell-wall, with three bell-tower bays, stands to the west of this Romanesque section, which was once to end in an apse, which has now been replaced by three Gothic bays. The western portal was altered in the 13th century.

If you like to get off the beaten track, a visit to the village of Mauzens-et-Miremont and his old Saint-Martin church are waiting for you.

The discreet treasure of Savignac-de-Miremont

Savignac de Miremont church©A. Borderie

Also dating from the 12th century, Saint-Denys church from Savignac-de-Miremont has also had its share of ups and downs. In fact, its portal was not completed until the 17th century. The curious visitor will be in for a big surprise. The church is home to some very special furnishings, including a polychrome wooden altarpiece dating from the 12th century, canopies and two statues from the high altar, all of which have been listed as historic monuments since 24 January 1979.

The church of Saint Eumach in Saint Chamassy

Saint Eumachus was a 6th-century confessor, and it is from him that the church in Saint Chamassy takes its name. More recent than the previous churches, its beginnings date back to the 12th century. It formed a whole with the seigneurial residence and was linked by a Gothic portal. The Wars of Religion took their toll on this harmonious ensemble, but successive restorations have given it its present-day charm. The curious will have the pleasure of discovering a way of the cross and a Christ dating from the 15th century.

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