Color and Saint Austremoine (PJ McKey)

Every time we visit Saint Astremoine in Issoire, I cannot help but think of the impression it must of made in times less cluttered by man-made visual stimuli. This year during our visit I found myself in the south side of the ambulatory transfixed by the riot of patterns and color. I always try to capture what I’m experiencing but inevitably fall short. The camera can’t capture my emotional response to certain colors, to being surrounded in this place.

South side aisle, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Saint Austremoine is joyous. The colors sing and there is nothing somber or fearful. This is a church that can only be experienced.

Ambulatory, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

A trip into the crypt really felt like a descent into harder times. It evokes the seriousness of a martyr’s death and the burden of man striving for the light.

Crypt, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

It was pure relief to go ascend into the church and emerge once again in the land of the living color.

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

If you are interested in a previous post on this church, follow this link.

38 thoughts on “Color and Saint Austremoine (PJ McKey)

  1. PJ, These photos of Saint Astremoine are remarkable in many ways. Today they brought color to my world.The artisans and tradesmen who built the arches, colored the plaster, and imagined and painted the designs must have known a bit of heaven doing this work. The combinations of materials, colors, patterns, forms, angles, and spaces draw me into this lovely place. My spirit has been living in the crypt these past few days. You just took me upstairs to “the land of living color”. Thank you. Greetings to Dennis.

    1. Gordon, so glad you joined us in the land of living color again. It is still difficult to capture the full power and emotion of the space, but I’m happy that it helped. Dennis says hello.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous! You really captured the color this time! Has the church been restored? The color seems so much brighter compared to your 2011 photos.

    1. The colors are different in the different parts of the church. PJ’s shots from yesterday are all in the apse where purples abound. The more subdued colors are in the nave, although “subdued” may not be the proper word. Thanks for your commentary.

  3. Congratulations!
    Once again you have both captured the magnificence and joyful playfulness of the original craftsmen. This sacred church looks like an illuminated manuscript come to life! Hats off to PJ. Awesome!

  4. You-all are really so great at sharing such finds!! Such beautiful colors. I was motivated to read what Otto Demus has to say in the standard work Romanesque Mural Painting, only to find that he did not include Saint Austremoine. Thank you so much for widening horizons.

    1. John, the painting here was done by Anatole Dauvergne in 1859. At first they were considered too violent but have since been recognized as masterpieces in their own right and are restored as such.

  5. PJ and Dennis, Views from the Edge re-posted this with a quick introductory comment. Views from the Edge’s traffic tracker indicates it’s already getting lots of attnetion. We all need a lift like this!

  6. Wow! How extraordinary! Though, like an earlier commenter, I’m actually rather glad that time has erased most of the bright paintwork of the middle ages, since I prefer the austerity of plain stone. Hence, while I loved the vivid colours of the main church, I was also glad of the photo of the crypt.

    But that in itself may be because we are now so visually over-stimulated as a society that our eyes now rejoice more in having a bit of a rest than in being given yet more stimulus. 🙂

    Incidentally, in some respects the interior reminds me of Pugin’s extraordinary Gothic Revival church at Cheadle in NW England. See gallery here.

      1. Yes, I always find it deeply moving to find medieval paintwork that has survived, especially when largely untouched by the over-eager restorer’s handiwork!

      2. Ste Austremoine is SO different from Ravenna I can’t wait to see how you respond! There is an interesting discussion to be had about ‘flatness’ and ‘aliveness’ which could spin off on many levels. (Obviously tessurae, with physical depth and facetted surface reflecting light in infinitely varying ways, create effects no painted surface can, effects which are no more easily reproduced by a camera than is a wave.) But flatness (instinctively finding trompe l’oeil or any baroqueness repulsive) was in Pugin’s make-up, and flat colour reproduction processes (chromo-lithography?) were in his context, and so the Cheadle link with Ste indeed well made…
        Having seen your wonderful Romanesque sensitivities, I so await your responses to Ravenna!

  7. My quilter’s heart wallowed in the colour, thank you so much PJ. Agreed there are many, many churches where vestiges of the bright glory of the original decor remain, but this one is splendiferous! Do you know if this is the result of extensive restoration, or painstaking ongoing conservation?

    It’s not often that we get a purely PJ post – is Dennis OIK?

    1. Viv, I’m fine, thanks. PJ was moved to write this one. Glad you liked the post – PJ says hi.

      Saint Austremoine was restored to the colors about 150 years ago, but there were vestiges to guide the artist, Anatole Dauvergne.

  8. I think you will have been to Aulnay, we went to Verteuil-sur-Charente recently and i haved put a post on my blog about the church which has a fantastic sculpture however that is in Charente not Charente Maritime, Talmont is good but more for its position on the Gironde estuary, you might want a boat to get some really good shots, inside is to my eye not so spectacular. There is a great book called Ways of Aquitaine by Freda White which covers all this area and she has an opinion on most of the churches. Melle is another on one of the routes St Jacques and has a spectacular church, Infact there are several but again its not Charente maritime.

    All the best


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