In the past, I never really paid attention to the UNESCO designation, but it does provide some focus and ideas when you’re not certain what to see in an area. Awhile back, I used it to find a site that is near where I live and I headed out to check it out. There are so many churches and abbeys in the area, having the designation seemed to promise something extraordinary. It was a dreary, rainy day when I left, so perfect for site seeing indoors, but the sun came out shortly after I arrived.
The abbey can be entered for a small fee; however, virtually everything was in French. There were a few videos that could be played in English, but it was a long wait while they played in French. It was still interesting to see how tiny and sparse the quarters were when the abbey was still in use. I didn’t mind paying the fee to support the site, but I’m not sure it will hold much interest for those with no French.
You do get access to the gardens and grounds as well. It’s a small area, but the views of the back of the abbey are lovely! I love the different architecture that can be found, like these little “mini towers” at around the main part of the building.
After a short break outside, I went into the church. This is where the paintings are that the site is known for. They really are remarkable . . . but I’ve clearly been spoiled by France because the little church in Civray has some incredible painting. These paintings are from the 11th and 12th centuries though, so they’re a bit older.
It isn’t just the paintings of religious scenes though, the whole church is painted in charming pastels.
I don’t know when the columns were painted or if anything other than the ceiling murals are original, but the whole place appears “show ready” – the interior is clearly cared for and doesn’t show the same decades (or centuries) of neglect that is visible in many French churches and cathedrals.Having not been raised Catholic, I admit that I find the whole concept of holy “relics” a bit disturbing – bones, blood, garments, etc. have been kept from those declared saints and the bodies of Saint Savin and Saint Cyprian are here, kept underneath the church. Finding a crypt directly under the churches is not uncommon though and, occasionally, you’ll even find large stone tombs inside the churches themselves.
If you’re in the area and fond of finding particularly striking or unique churches, the abbey is worth a stop!