Saturday 1 September 2012

Where the road takes you

Several times when driving from Montrichard to Loches we'd seen a 'Monuments Historiques de France' sign pointing a little unsteadliy down a small road which led off to the left just beyond Faverolles-sur-Cher.  Each time we said to ourselves 'we must go and have a look'; but we'd never had the time. During our recent nose round the Montrichard/St Aignan area we did have the time and decided to investigate. We like following these signs; often the logo is faded and you can see the sign is old. It's a bit like a mystery tour, you don't really know what you'll find at the end of it.
ruined nave: Abbaye d'Aiguevives
This time, after a few kilometers, hand-made signs also appeared pointing in the direction of Aiguevives. When we arrived we found ourselves in the small 'lieu-dit' set in a forest clearing. The 'lieu-dit' itself was made up of a manorhouse/small chateau, a large farm complex and one or two other residential houses and a ruined church. The church is all that remains of the Abbaye d'Aiguevives. Once it had been a royal abbey but as was the norm it was sold off as public property during the French Revolution.
gated westdoor to the nave, Aiguevives
The abbey was built by the Governor of Montrichard in 1147 and atracted many donations, becoming a rich foundation. Dedicated to Saint Gilles [Giles] pilgrimages took place on his feast day, the 1st and on 8th of September, to cure children of being fearful, and to cure what we now know as Huntingdon's Disease [Huntingdon's Chorea]. Cures were affected by touching the statue of the saint and then washing hands and face in the spring dedicated to him at Aiguevives.

detail of painted decoration, the west door
It seems that a modern pilgrimage still takes place, as we were able to find the programme for pilgrimages in 2009 and 2011 [but nothing for this year or 2010]. If you are interested you can see last year's programme here on the village of Faverolles-sur-Cher's website. We think the hand-made signs directing to Aiguevives have gone up in preparation for this year's pilgrimage; presumably to be held next week [last year's took place on 4 September].

Abbaye d'Aiguevives
Sadly, the church is closed with gates. However, you can see something of the interior through the slats. The roof has gone and there are warning signs to take care and be aware of falling masonry. From what we could see the clear roof which covers the ruined nave is a very recent addition. The west door is lovely and in relatively good condition with the carvings still showing signs of painted decoration.

We didn't stay long as it was incredibly hot [40C]; but it is a lovely location and there look to be plenty of good walks in the forest round about.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
This really does look to be such a pretty place and we do so trust that steps are, in fact, being taken to preserve what is left of the abbey. It somewhat reminds us of Abbey Dore in Herefordshire - not entirely dissimilar.

We too find that if it is excessively hot, as clearly it was for you, there is a limit as to how much one can look. We were, thanks to your link, intrigued to see the 'programme' for last year on 4th. September. Why not the 1st., we wonder?

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane & Lance - We've no idea why not the 1st either [though to be fair the 4th was a Sunday last year]; and although the hand-made signs looked new it may be that the pilgrimage is every 2 years.

the fly in the web said...

Well your road led me quite some way!

I looked at the website and found a photograph of the nearby fontaine de St. Gilles showing what I thought was a dog, but which, on checking who St. Gilles might be, turned out to be a deer!

Furthermore I read that if one invoked the name of St. Gilles one did not need to make a wonder the chap was popular!

So I wonder if the name of the abbey is drawn from the existence of the spring.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - iconography usually shows a hind as Saint Gilles took an arrow shot by one King Wamba which was meant for the deer [10thC legend of his life]. An early 7thC saint, he founded a monastery at Saint Gilles in Provence.

As you found out he was very popular as invoking his name was considered very effective!

Should think the name was indeed drawn from the spring which roughly translates as "living waters".

ladybird said...

That's a really interesting and intriguing spot. Must put it on next year's to-see-list! Where you the only people around? Martine

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Martine - it is a lovely spot, surrounded as it is by forest so a nice place for a picnic and walk.
The 'feature' is the carving round the west door and there's the well [you can't walk round the church as the north wall is part of someone's garden wall].
There was no one! [it was 40C though!]

GaynorB said...

Looks interesting.

I'll put it on our 'to do' list too, especially as there are forest walks thereabout.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - there look to be plenty of good walks and the pilgrimage itself follows a walk from Montrichard [9km].

LindyLouMac said...

Well that was a sign worth following, the church looks as if it might be undergoing renovations.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@LindyLou - Definitely! Although, sadly we think it it more likely an exercise in damage limitation.

Perpetua said...

The French dissolution of the monasteries sadly did as much damage as the English, Niall and Antoinette, but it must have been exciting to find these beautiful remains hidden away like this. Here's hoping the powers-that-be can halt the decay.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - the new roof should help halt the decline but the stonework on the spire looked pretty poor.