The town of L'Île-Bouchard straddles the river Vienne and we've written about the capitals of the ruined Prieuré de Saint-Léonard there before.
On the south side of the Vienne river, just before you reach it, is a small village called Parçay-sur-Vienne.
We decided to
have a quick look to see if the village church was of interest before heading on towards L'Île-Bouchard and Chinon: it was a another case of one of those slightly battered and faded 'monument historique' signs which intrigued us.
We weren't disappointed. The village church boasted a beautifully ornamented 12th century west facade. We weren't able to find out a great deal, but it seems that originally
it was a monastery which then was turned into a priory linked
with L'Île-Bouchard. The church is dedicated to St Peter.
|Scallop shell motief in the stonework|
The most well known image associated with St Peter is keys. However, Peter was a fisherman and the information panel next to the mairie informed us that this was the reason that there are so many images associated with fishing and the sea on the west facade.
What makes the west facade more interesting is the fact that the scallop shell motief is heavily used. The scallop is the symbol of St James, not St Peter. Pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela would wear a scallop shell badge. In the early church [5th - 6th cent] the scallop shell was also used as an image of the resurrection as the upturned shell looked similar to the rising sun.
One of the major medieval pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela ran via Tours and Poitiers. Parçay-sur-Vienne is about 1/3 of the way between Tours and Poitiers which could explain the use of the scallop shell motief; however this is an educated guess on our part.
|Cockerels on the left. Mad merman on the right?|
The capitals are all richly carved and the one above shows a mermaid clutching a fish in one hand and her tail in the other. Others show various grotesques, many of which have a marine theme. We noticed one which seemed to depict a mad merman wielding a club!
|A carnivore chasing its prey|
At the bottom of one of the three arches surrounding the central door [left-hand side] there's a wonderful bit of carving. It shows a wolf chasing an animal which looks a little like a Schnauzer dog, but is probably a deer. They are both certainly running at full tilt!
|Bearded faces |
The outer of the three arches surrounding the door is made up of little bearded faces, each one is different and clearly shows off the carver's skill. They certainly made us smile!
The church facade was restored in 1991. Sadly, on the day it was locked, so we don't know if there were more carved treasures inside. Hopefully, during the tourist season it will be unlocked and when next we're over this way we can find out.