The Church of Saint-Révérien (Dennis Aubrey)


The ‪Église Saint-Révérien in the Nièvre town of Saint-Révérien is named after one of the earliest evangelists in Gaul. Around the year 270, Pope Felix I sent Reverianus, his friend Paulus, and ten companions (whose names have been lost over time) from their native Italy to Gaul to propogate the Christian religion. I presume that they were somewhat successful in life, but after the Emperor Aurelian had them beheaded in Autun in 273, they were canonized and were venerated by their followers.

A monastery was established on the site of the execution that eventually was dedicated to Reverianus, called Révérien now in France. The abbey was a dependency of Saint Martin d’Autun but in 1055 was confided to Cluny. The church that we see today was built in the 12th century and because of the relics of Révérien, was a place of pilgrimage on its own as well as a stop on the Compostella route.

Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

The church is conventionally Cluniac. The nave consists of five bays covered with a banded barrel vault. The arcade arches alternate between rounded columns and square piers with engaged columns, all topped with superb figurative capitals supporting the founded arcade arches.

Nave, Église Saint-Révérien,  Saint-Révérien (Nièvre)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Nave, Église Saint-Révérien, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The side aisle bays are covered with groin vaults giving room for the large open windows that contribute a significant amount of illumination to the church interior. The springing for the vaults on the exterior wall is carried by engaged columns with their own narrow capitals.

South side aisle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

South side aisle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

In this shot of the north side aisle, we can see the smooth rhythmic patterns of the alternating piers and columns dividing the side aisle from the nave. We also see down the narrow side aisles into the ambulatory in the far distance. Saint Révérien is unusual in that there are no transepts, so the ambulatory proceeds directly from the side aisles.

North side aisle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

North side aisle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

The choir hemicycle is a superb creation, open and well-lit, and with some of the finest capitals in the church adorning the supporting columns. The choir is raised three steps above the crossing level and is covered with an oven vault.

Choir hemicycle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Choir hemicycle, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The view of the choir and altar from the ambulatory shows the direct transition from the nave arcade to the hemicycle because there are no transepts. We can also see the painted decoration on the near pillar on the right. These Romanesque paintings are found throughout the ambulatory, especially in the side chapels.

Choir from ambulatory, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

Choir from ambulatory, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

The three beautiful radiating chapels are decorated with fine 13th century frescoes. The axial chapel has a fresco on the vault depicting the Assumption.

Ambulatory chapel, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

Ambulatory chapel, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

Other frescoes in the side chapels include views of the Baptism of Christ, the Last Judgment and the Creation. The chapels themselves are my favorite architectural elements in the church.

Ambulatory chapel, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

Ambulatory chapel, Église Saint-Révérien de Saint-Révérien‬, Saint-Révérien (Nièvre) Photo by PJ McKey

While the frescoes are quite nice, the capitals of the nave and the hemicycle columns are the most interesting feature of Saint-Révérien. We are preparing a separate post in a couple of days to show them, some of the finest in the Nièvre.

Location: 47.211822° 3.503938°

7 responses to “The Church of Saint-Révérien (Dennis Aubrey)

    • It is, Ellen, and so little known. We didn’t have much time there, unfortunately. The gardien was gone for a very long lunch and we amused ourselves by watching the young children play at the adjacent schoolyard and taking shots of the exterior.

  1. Such a shame that churches are now generally locked outside the times of service.
    In my first village in France the church was always open…despite containing valuable items on open view…but things changed in the ’90s as theft became more common.
    I often wonder who buys items stolen from churches….

    This church is just magnificent and I look forward to the next post on it.

    • It is usually not a problem to find the key; in this case, it was the extremely leisurely lunch that held us up. Theft is definitely a fear; we have written about the theft of the vierges romanes and other treasures that have been taken.

  2. Dennis, this is a real gem! I love the fact that the church does not have a clerestory (nothing wrong with them). In fact I wonder if the architect of the Honan Chapel (1916) in University College Cork (James McMullen) had this barrel vault in mind when he designed his essay on Hiberno-Romanesque revival. I must check that out!

    • Tony, so nice to hear from you again. The church is a gem, especially the capital sculptures, which are featured today. As for the Honan Chapel, which I had not heard of, I just looked at some images of the interior. The vault is almost identical, as you say. The banded barrel vault is found throughout France from the Romanesque era, and certainly could have inspired Honan. Thanks for the lead on Hiberno-Romanesque and the Arts & Crafts revival.

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