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.