Bones (PJ McKey)

The Église Saint-Pierre in the town of Parthenay-le-Vieux near Poitiers is mentioned for the first time in the texts in 1092. Today, it is an empty church, privately owned. On this day, it was being unconsciously watched over by a house painter working on the house next door. Our equipment and question about whether church was open spurred his interest and he couldn’t resist coming to take a look. Despite being a resident of the small town, he had never been inside. I think the church surprised him looking so beautiful in the morning light; elegant, bright and pure.

Église Saint-Pierre, Parthenay-le-Vieux (Deux-Sèvres) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The interior was devoid of statuary, candles, paintings, the usual elements that personalize a church and reveal its human history. Only a few sarcophagi lying in the north side aisle decorated this church.

Side aisle of Église Saint-Pierre , Parthenay-le-Vieux (Deux-Sèvres) Photo by PJ McKey

The empty church revealed its true universal character; only the architecture was left to speak, to capture our spirit and eye. To me, Saint-Pierre didn’t seem abandoned, but simply felt like it was waiting and keeping watch the way buildings do over the passing events of our lives. I discovered some graffiti near the altar from the 1920’s and 1940’s, the post war years. I imagined revelers discovering a private place to experience the joy of peace, feeling reckless and exuberant.

Side chapel of Église Saint-Pierre , Parthenay-le-Vieux (Deux-Sèvres) Photo by PJ McKey

I also liked the fact that I was alone inside. For most of the time, Dennis was busy shooting the exterior sculpture, so I had the church to myself; no occasional visitors would come in for prayer or to light a candle. There was no sense of being an intruder into the religious community. I confess I did one thing besides photograph – I sang, wanting to experience my voice heightened, amplified, serving as my own choir. I too felt wonderful, reckless and exuberant.

Nave and west front of Église Saint-Pierre , Parthenay-le-Vieux (Deux-Sèvres) Photo by PJ McKey

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