Restoring Culhat (Dennis Aubrey)


Culhat (1044 inhabitants) is one of many small towns in the Auvergne that possess remarkable architectural features. The 12th Century Romanesque church of Culhat – Église Saint Vosy – was classified in the Patrimoine de France as early as 1886, which marks it as an important monument. We arrived on a beautiful September afternoon and were pleased to find the church open.

Chevet and Crossing Tower, Église Saint Vosy, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Inside, however, we were surprised to see restoration work in progress, most likely to support the weight of the great crossing tower. As can be seen in the exterior shot, this tower is substantially larger than the rest of the structure. PJ’s shot of the nave shows large wooden supports on either side of the east side of the crossing vault.

Nave, Église Saint Vosy, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

In the detail shot, it is clear that this is a significant restoration because they have placed concrete footings to the wooden structures. I love the placement of the flowers to integrate the supports into the church.

Reinforcing structure, Église Saint Vosy, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

This next shot shows the structures supporting the side aisle arches leading to the transept. This kind of form work would have been used for a thousand years to build the arches in the first place.

Arch bracing, Église Saint Vosy, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

In this final shot of the sequence you can clearly see how the framing supports the crossing squinches. Saint Vosy is still in use as a parish church despite the significant structural work being done, although it is possible that these are intended as permanent structures to support the church. We’re not exactly sure what work is going on, but it is clearly helping to support the weight of that crossing tower. The apse of the Cathedral of Beauvais in the Oise has gigantic versions of these same supports to support the soaring walls of that structure.

Chancel crossing under restoration, Église Saint Vosy, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Culhat has one other object of great architectural interest, a Lanternes des Morts, the Lanterns of the Dead. We have done another post on the Lanterne at Fenioux. This one at Culhat is much smaller, but quite lovely. As might be expected from a funereal monument, it sits next to the town cemetery.

Lanterne des Morts, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

In the past, however, the cemetery surrounded the Lanterne, as evidenced by this antique photographic postcard. The gravestones themselves (and perhaps the graves) have been moved to another location just to the right of this photograph, which leaves the Lanterne somewhat forlorn and dispossessed.

Lanterne des Morts, Culhat (Puy-de-Dôme). Old photographic post card.

If you are interested in seeing more of our photographs of Romanesque churches in France, please follow this link.

8 responses to “Restoring Culhat (Dennis Aubrey)

    • Thanks. The Auvergne is one of our favorites, we go almost every year with Issoire as our base. There are literally hundreds of churches like this in the area. Hope you get to go there!

    • Graham, if you get to Beauvais, the Cathedral has identical supports, but about ten times the size of these in Culhat. They are holding up the giant apse walls in the absence of a real nave. It’s the same basic structural support. What is amazing is how beautiful the church remains.

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