Azay-le-Rideau was once known as Azay-le-Brulé on
account of an 'insult trading session' in 1418 between the Burgundian
garrison who held the village and the Dauphin, [the future Charles VII] who
was on his way from Chinon to Tours. In reprisal for the insults hurled at him he ordered the
garrison executed and burnt Azay. The name le-Brulé was current until
the 16th century.
On previous visits to Azay-le-Rideau we've visited the beautiful Renaissance chateau which we've written about here
, and wandered its streets; but for some odd reason we never had a look at the church -- something we usually do. Last month we finally rectified the situation.
|Part of the earliest façade: possibly as early as 5th or 6th century|
The church is special because it has the most lovely façade. Once the church formed part of a monastic settlement that fell under the jurisdiction of the Abbey de Cormery, and it is marked on the Abbey's 11th century maps. However, only the church now remains and functions as the parish church. The rest has long gone but would have stretched out into the grounds of the chateau which lies just beyond the wall in the foreground of the 1st photo.
However, well before the 11th century there was an even earlier church on this site. St-Symphorien retains part of a, possibly Merovingian, or Carolingian
|Detail: top row of figures, Christ in the center|
façade. What remains is what one can see on the right-side; the original single-aisled church. The, probably 6th century, [no one is quite sure just how old it is] façade is dominated by pyramidal or bell-like shapes and rows of figures which the 11th century masons simply incorporated into new larger church they were building. Looking at the way the design has been chopped off it may well be that the 6th century version wasn't gabled, unlike the 11th century expansion. Later in the 13th century a window was punched through the lower row of figures. In the top row one can make out Christ in the center --he's got a nimbus with a cross-- holding a book. To his left are three haloed saints. The figures to his right do not have halos.
As with the upper row of figures the lower row has a mix of haloed and non-haloed figures. There are four haloed saints on the left [as you face the building] and three non-haloed figures on the right. Which saints they represent is uncertain, nor have the non-haloed figures been identified. At a guess the latter are prominent ecclesiastics.
Two other carvings at either end of a corbelled ledge are of hunting dogs. On the left are two dogs facing each other and to the right are another two actively hunting. In this carving on the right [as you look at the front of the church] the leading dog has caught what looks to be a hare and the other dog is chasing it. If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it you should be able to see the teeth the mason carved in the jaws of the first dog.
|Detail: two dogs facing each other|
The corbels are carved with what look to be animal heads.
Much later, in the very late 15th/early 16th century the church was again enlarged and a second nave was added. This left-hand side
|Hunting dog with [probably] a hare being chased by another dog.|
façade has a more steeply gabled roof line and the window above the door is in the flamboyant gothic style typical of the very late middle ages.
Did you go in and see the nice wall paintings? Knights on horseback, a saint or two.
Oh yes :-) The nice horses are my FB profile pic.
I have not been over for years, but Azay le Rideau was possibly my favourite place in the Loire. We still have a picture of the chateau hanging in the hall.
Rusty - one of our favourites too.
I wish I'd stopped off to see the church...our visitors always wanted to see A the chateau and B the mechanical museum nearby and it was a long drive already. I could kick myself...
@fly - we've never been to the mechanical museum.
Well it isn't going anywhere :-) so when you do come to visit friends you could go take a look.
Wonderful photos of my kind of building. :-) I would love to see it for myself one day. Could the non-haloed figures perhaps represent the Old Testament prophets, especially since the carvings are so very early? Just a thought...
@Perpetua - What a good suggestion. It would make sense.
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