Built between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, Saintonge's Romanesque churches sublimate the whiteness and simplicity of limestone, a soft stone that the workers and craftsmen of the time worked to adorn the churches with columns, arches, capitals or modillions...

At the time, the purpose of these decorations was primarily to tell the Bible to the illiterate faithful. Over time, these structures have undergone successive demolitions and renovations mixing theromanesque art origin to other architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Classical or Modern. Churches are thus part of the oldest heritage elements of our municipalities. It is very often around them that the towns are structured and developed.

Royan Atlantique, in its long “white coat” of Romanesque churches

Romanesque art is a thick book from which some of the most beautiful pages were composed in the heart of medieval Saintonge.

In the year one thousand, the maritime territory of Royan depends on the direct authority of the lords of Didonne. It is then that in a few decades a large section of this "white mantle of churches" unfolds. Like what is done in Saintonge, the workers and craftsmen work and model the soft stone. They first taper columns, create corbels (sculpted blocks under the cornices) and profile superimposed arches above the portals. They also adorn capitals and facades typically formed of arcades on several levels.

Roman route from the hills of the Gironde to the marshes of the Seudre

To this day, around Royan, eight churches are classified as Historic Monuments. They are located on one of the secondary routes of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Let's go to meet this thousand-year-old heritage on the Roman route of Destination Royan Atlantique.


1. The Sainte-Radegonde church in Talmont-sur-Gironde

1. The Sainte-Radegonde church in Talmont-sur-Gironde

talmont church 1

Powerful postcard of Charentais Romanesque art, theSainte-Radegonde church draws its mystery and strength from the exceptional site where the Benedictine monks of Saint-Jean-d'Angély chose to establish it in the XNUMXth century on the site of a previous sanctuary. Perched at the top of a cliff threatened by the ebb and flow of the tide, this building seems to defy the sea. by the salt of the sea. Opposite the portal, the marine cemetery of Talmont with its hollyhocks completes the unique aspect of this church like no other.

2. Saint-Martin church in Arces-sur-Gironde

Saint Martin's Church is a former abbey of a Benedictine priory. If the exterior is imposing, the interior arouses the curiosity of these visitors. Lovers of Saintonge Romanesque art are used to seeing white stone walls. But here, walls, pillars and capitals are repainted. Originally, the decorations of our Romanesque churches were painted to make the biblical themes they depicted more legible. The Reformers whitewashed them and the years accentuated this change. From the XNUMXth century until recently, restoration work has restored the church to its original character.

arches church

3. Saint-Symphorien church in Grézac

The Saint-Symphorien church is a church in two naves, both Romanesque and Gothic. A high relief on the facade represents Aesop's fable "the Fox and the Stork" (also visible in Cozes). To discover : the crypt under the choir with its vault made up of ribbed arches in four sections. The central capital represents "the Damned in Hell".

4. Saint-Pierre de Royan church

Founded in the XNUMXth century on the site of a priory, the Saint-Pierre church is the oldest monument in the city of Royan. Its existence is attested to in writing in 1092. The first polygonal apse (east end of the building, behind the choir) has not existed since the XNUMXth century. The current flat chevet dates from this period. From the Romanesque period, the bay of the nave (south side), dating from the XNUMXth century, remains today, a modillion (sculpted head) reused to support the cornice of the apse, capitals with a floral theme, and the ossuary crypt, arranged in the lower part of the south transept, no doubt contemporary with the foundation. THE 1945 bombings severely damaged the church, leading to major reconstructions.

5. Saint-Etienne church in Vaux-sur-Mer

Founded in 1075 by the Gémon brothers, two knights of the house of Mortagne, the Saint-Étienne church was an abbey church. It is located on the site of an old Carolingian building and before that, a Gallo-Roman building. Its nave has now disappeared. In the square of the transept, a trunk remains and bears witness to the old dome. The church has historic capitals inside as well as outside. In the same church, theancient cemetery filled with cenotaphs is also listed as a Historic Monument.

6. Saint-Sulpice Church in Saint-Sulpice de Royan

À Saint-Sulpice de Royan, the eponymous church, a dependency of the abbey of Vaux, shows the remains ofRomanesque arches (late XNUMXth century) seized in the north wall of its nave redone in a Gothic style in the XNUMXth century (on the left when entering). Renowned for its remarkable portal with 5 arches, the church of Saint-Sulpice is surrounded by 4 cenotaphs. It houses at the foot of its bell tower a medieval garden. It is made up of raised beds hosting a vegetable garden and more than 200 plants (aromatic, textile, cosmetic, tinctorial, toxic). Place of tranquility, it has in its center, an octagonal fountain. The latter is adorned with a sundial that allows the visitor to keep track of time.

st-sulpice church

7. Saint-Vivien church in Breuillet

The Saint-Vivien church dates from the 1186th century (first mentioned in XNUMX). Its facade is imposing with its portal with four arches, his gallery ofarches of 9 hangers on the first floor and its three large windows on the second. The bay in the center is pierced with an oculus. At the top, a campanile houses the bell. Its ex-voto stained glass windows date from the XNUMXth century. On the north side, part of the old cemetery is still present.

breuillet church

8. Saint-Pierre church in Mornac-sur-Seudre

Built on the remains of a Merovingian building, the Saint-Pierre church has a Latin cross plan with apsidioles. Following the fire by lightning of the bell tower in 1943, excavations and restoration work highlighted the hidden treasures of the church in the 1950s such as the oblong cupola. The apse, in the bottom of the oven, houses the remains of frescoes. The funerary liter and the bench of the poor are found all along the nave. Numerous modillions and capitals adorn the apse, the garden of which hides Merovingian sarcophagi.

mornac church

Stone churches in Crazannes, did you know?

Our Romanesque churches owe their appearance to the stone of Crazannes whose quarries are close to Saintes. Made up of 98% pure limestone, it was used for sculpture and the construction of many buildings, including the famous Fort Boyard and Cologne Cathedral. The quarries ceased all activity in the middle of the XNUMXth century and are now part of the Nature Escapes, sensitive natural areas of Charente-Maritime.

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