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.2017-05-07 16.19.14

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.2017-05-07 16.20.23

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.2017-05-07 16.24.17

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.2017-05-07 16.29.47

It isn’t just the paintings of religious scenes though, the whole church is painted in charming pastels.2017-05-07 16.30.38

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.2017-05-07 16.34.04Having 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.2017-05-07 16.33.48

If you’re in the area and fond of finding particularly striking or unique churches, the abbey is worth a stop!