Despite its proximity to Cluny, the 12th century Église Saint Paul de Châteauneuf was not a Benedictine monastery church, but a parish church under the diocese of Mâcon. Châteauneuf became a royal domain in 1181 under Philip Augustus and the Lords of Châteauneuf maintained a powerful fortress (later destroyed in the Hundred Years War). The Église Saint-Paul de Châteauneuf dates from that time. Today the church is the centerpiece of a village of 101 inhabitants.
The church is rectangular in plan with short transepts. The nave has three bays with high arcades. Above the arcade arches are clerestory windows in the openings made by the groin vaulting.
There are three short steps up to the chancel crossing and then another two leading to the apse. The apse is covered with an oven vault that once was painted, but there is no trace of the original design left today. There is no hemicycle or ambulatory in the church, just a pair of chapels echeloned right and left. The apse is lit by three arched windows and decorated by five arches falling on pilasters and carved columns.
In the nave, the powerful supporting pillars feature engaged columns on three sides. The pilaster on the nave side springs the supporting transverse arch across the nave that divides the groin vault into discrete segments.
The extremely narrow side aisles are out of proportion to their height and run straight through the short transepts to the echeloned apsidal chapels on either side of the altar. PJ made me laugh when she said of them them, “Skinny, skinny side aisles, just a nod to a side aisle.”
The cupola in the crossing is supported by an octagonal lantern lit by four arched windows. This supports the bell tower that is the distinguishing feature of the exterior.
In the shot of the crossing we can see the arches that support the cupola. We can also clearly see the ogive arches of the arcade and the clerestory window in the cusp of the groin vaults.
A last restoration took place in the second half of the nineteenth century, between 1849 and 1866, under the authority of the architect Millet, a pupil of Viollet-le-Duc, who considered the bell tower as a model of the Burgundy style.
Église Saint Paul de Châteauneuf is just one more of the Romanesque masterworks that are found in the Saône-et-Loire district of Burgundy. There are five other churches within ten miles, including the Église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption at Anzy-le-Duc and the Église Saint Marcel d’Iguérande, both of which we have featured before. Any visit to this area will yield a bounty of fine Romanesque churches to be explored.
Location: 46.211922° 4.254877°