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