Last October, PJ and I were working in the Dordogne and Lot departments for several days. Near the end of that sojourn, we arrived in the late afternoon in the small village of Saint-Amand-du-Coly which is distinguished by its superb 12th century fortified church. The light was starting to fade so we went to work immediately.
After about an hour of shooting, an elderly gentleman entered the church and walked directly toward us. At that time of the day, this usually means that we were being ejected from the church because it was closing. He came up to me and asked our names, which is fairly rare. When I told him he smiled and said, “We have been waiting for you. We were hoping that you would come.”
He explained that he had heard that we were in the area shooting and that he had been waiting for us to show up – inevitably – at Saint Amand. He turned out to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about the church – even scholarly – and spent a good 45 minutes talking to us about the details of the architecture and answering our questions.
One of our questions was about the raised walkway in the north transept. We thought it might have been a tribune of some kind, but our new guide pointed out that it was the entryway from the dormitory to the church. The monks would make their entrance through the center doorway for services during the night and early morning.
For some reason, this is one of my favorite shots of the church, possibly because it shows from the outside in the essence of the Romanesque hall church – high walls with a barrel vault, a simple apse and two short transepts. This was not a pilgrimage church, but an abbey church that was fortified against all of the violence that swept this region during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion.
PJ captured this shot of the doorway with the worn flagstone steps and the font. We always appreciate the glacial wearing down of the stone by the feet of the worshippers. The church was built at entrance to the hillside cave where the hermit Saint Amand had lived in the Sixth Century,
The next photo shows the apse with its unique raised altar and the two transept chapels flanking.
This shot shows the raised altar in detail and the serious mold problem that afflicts the church.
I’m very fond of this shot showing purity of the soaring Romanesque columns. The Église Abbatiale Saint-Amand-du-Coly has such pure and simple interior lines that belie the defensive posture of the exterior.
By the time we had finished, the light was almost gone and it was time to head back to our hotel. But once again, the kindness of a stranger had enlivened our visit and informed our work. My memory no longer being what it once was, I don’t remember his name, only his generosity.