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[DE] Churches and mural paintings


Over twenty churches of the Loir Valley contain interesting mural paintings from the Romanesque period ( i.e. from the 11th century) to the 20th century.

The term “mural paintings” is preferable to “frescoes”, derived from the Italian “a frescoe” designated a painting on a fresh coating (less than eight hours old): the “dry” technique was, in fact, often used by artists from Brévainville to Flée, along the path of the Loir.

One of the special features of these works is that they are integrated into church architecture both by their dimensions and by their positioning, on a precise area of the walls.

In terms of technique and method, since the end of the 19th century (the period of their rediscovery) the term “Loi Valley school” has been used. This is a credible theory, since the Middle Ages the banks of the Loir traced a highly frequented path from Orléans to Angers, facilitating exchanges between journeyman painters and the local clergy, who commissioned their works.

Depicting the best known scenes from the Old Testament and from the life of Christ, these paintings were designed for the community of each village and for pilgrims on the road to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, teaching them Genesis and the Gospel via images.

Showing a certain deliberate strategy, the Church of the Middle Ages introduced colour via mural paintings: visions of the life of Christ and a better world, advancing towards the choir, sacred area of the sanctuary; threats of the flames of Hell and the worst tortures (wheel, cauldron on the fire, precipice) in the direction of the exit. In the Loir Valley, God’s “little people” could not ignore the risks!

Churches and chapels simply must be visited to admire these works: Areines near Vendôme, Saint-Gilles in Montoire-sur-le-Loir (Ronsard’s priory) and very fine ensembles in Lavardin, Saint-Jacques-des-Guérets.

The majority of churches downstream of the Vendôme region have their own décor, clearly distinct from that described above. Some of them are remarkable for their originality or rarity.

In addition to the consistent heritage of the 11th and 12th century Romanesque paintings, there are also interesting works dating from the 15th century to the present day.

In Poncé-sur-Loir, since 1893 the fine restored set of Romanesque paintings has co-existed with a “Christ in majesty and the foru evangelists” completely repainted by Henri Lafillée, the chief architect for Historical Monuments, who put forward the theory of a 12th century “Loir Valley school”.

And the end of the 20th century is represented in the church of Meslay. In the nineties, artist Jean-Claude Ferron painted a “Christ in majesty” here that draws freely on Romanesque tradition, in which the angels and the wheel of Hell are not forgotten!

Discover these churches, set in a area covering 80 kilometers:

Areines, Bonneveau, Boursay, Choue, Couture-sur-Loir, Huisseau-en-Beauce, Lavardin, Longpré, Lunay, Mazangé, Meslay, Montoire-sur-Loir, Naveil, Sargé-sur-Braye, Souday, St Firmin-des-Prés, St Jacques-des-Guérets, Thoré-La-Rochette, Tréhet, Vendôme, Villavard et Villiers-sur-Loir.

These churches are open every day from Easter to the end of October. Should the church be closed a notice indicates where to procure the key. Explanatory leaflets can be found in some churches.


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