Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Eglise rupestre de Vals

We visited a very interesting little church today on our way to Pamiers to order a window. The church has been on our list for a long time and was recommended by two people just out of the blue. So today we turned off the highway and took a look.

Not too impressive at first glance, the church seems very small, although about the right size for the tiny village. Nothing seemed that exceptional about it until we got up closer to the entrance. If you look at the first photo you can see a set of steps and then an archway. Above the archway is another natural opening. It has been modified to direct water away from a crevice in the rock.

The archway is the door to the church, and it allows you to head up a stairway set into the crevice in the huge hunk of conglomerate. (You remember your geology class in high school, right? Conglomerate is the stuff that is similar to concrete.) There is only the one opening allowing a little light into the crevice. After climbing the stairway up through the tunnel you enter directly into the tiny church. It is evident that it is very old. Some of the church is pre-Roman and some dates back to the 11th century. Then again, some of the tower was built as late as the 19th century. The church hugs the hunk of conglomerate and the walls conform to the shapes provided by the rock.

Apparently, the church is suffering from aging in a number of ways. But most interestingly, the walls are showing some cracks. Engineers have affixed some measuring devices to the walls to determine how much and how fast the walls are separating. The church has been sitting on the rock for a lot of centuries and it is strange to imagine that some force other than gravity is now pulling it apart.

The church is presently being refurbished and we were not able to see the frescoes because the walls were under cover. Paintings had been taken down and stacked against a wall. I took a picture of the first in the stack and you can just make out a human figure holding a staff and perhaps an animal in the lower right corner. The flash enhanced the painting because in the light available in the church, almost nothing was visible on the canvas. If anyone can enlighten us further about this painting, we're all ears.

These little gems are all over this part of France and it will be years before we see a small part of them.


Anonymous said...

Luke thinks this is "too fascinatin' for words"!

Do you know if the area that is pre-Roman was a pagan temple of some sort? Julius Caesar went to Gaul (France) before the birth of Christ, so I don't think it was Christians who started building on this site...or am I wrong? I just love this "history stuff"!

Doug said...

Luke, I don't know. Most of the information was in French and so is most of the stuff on the internet. My first thought was that the beginnings of the structure seemed like fortifications that later became a church building, but that's speculation on my part. Google, Lukas, Google.

Anonymous said...

Doog...are you trying to make me "more intellegent" at this late date? A "deeply difficult task"...but one worth the effort!

Have fun this weekend!