Thursday 17 February 2011

Stone & Glass treasures

Recently we went up to Montrésor, one of our favourite places. In fact when we were house hunting last year we looked at a house near Beaumont Village just up the road; but it wasn't quite right for us.

 lintel above south chapel door
Montrésor is lovely and proudly displays an  official sign which announces that it is one of the prettiest villages in France. It has a picture postcard castle perched above the village, an ancient halle (market) and cute streets and a fascinating church.

We were there for the church. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, it was built as a church cum mausoleum by Imbert de Batarnay to house the tombs of his family. Begun in 1522, Imbert never saw it finished dying in 1523. The church was finally completed in 1541.

Intruiging is the mix between medieval and Renaissance. The church is still clearly medieval with its gothic windows and arches but the decoration adoring it is most definitely Renaissance. You would never find cherubs and scallop shells in medieval carvings as one finds above the south chapel door. The south west door now used to enter the church also shows this mix of medieval and Renaissance in its carved roundels which depict scenes from the Nativity of Christ beginning with the Annunciation and ending with the flight into Egypt.
Flight into Egypt

A sunny day in early spring is one of the best times to look at stained glass as the angle of the sun is good for lighting the it.  Montrésor has some lovely 16th century glass which happily survived the Revolution.

Pilate's blue boots
 The east window is complete and shows the Passion of Christ. It is still medieval although the apex of each lancet is already very flattened, almost horizontal. The colours are jewel-like and we especially loved the contrast between the angel above the good thief on the left and the wee winged devil hovering above the bad thief on the right. The devil seems almost quivering with eagerness to drag the poor chap off to hell the minute he expires.  Pilate's snazzy blue boots and amazing lion throne are also impressive; as is the detail on his golden robe which is beautifully painted.
winged devil top right; good angel top left
As an additional bonus the church also has some original stalls, complete with misericords. These are little shelf-like supports attached under the seats so that, when the seats flipped up on standing, you could still rest your bottom while standing during a long service. At Montrésor quite number are plain but a few have carvings--there's a cute angel and a great skull.

lute player, south chapel vaulting
harpist, south chapel vaulting
If the misericords are medieval then the carved roundels on the doors are again clearly Renaissance as are the carvings of musicians which decorate the barrel vaulted ceiling of the south side chapel.

We had the church completely to ourselves so we spent a great time examining all its treasures and taking photos--quite a few of which we've used here. All in all a superb morning's 'entertainment' for 2 medievalists!
Renaissance decorative door roundel

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