We have often discussed the role of serendipity in our work at Via Lucis, and today’s post is a perfect example. We were in one of our favorite churches, the Église Sainte Anne in Heume l’Église photographing the beautiful vierge romane there. Our host was Mme Bernadette Geille, of whom we have written before. When we mentioned that we were leaving the next day for the Pyrenees, M. Geille mentioned that if we wanted to see a beautiful Romanesque church, we should stop in the town of Auzon, which happened to be right on the way.
Stop we did, and the 11th century church turned out to be stunning. Saint Laurent is perched perfectly on a small rock eminence in the center of town. The superb 12th century clocher, or tower, is built over the third bay of the nave. On the south side is a porch which is known in the Auvergne as the ganivelle.
The ganivelle is decorated with some fine historiated capitals but the sandstone has badly eroded over time. We can still see the quality in what remains, however, in this rendition of the visit of the magi.
The interior is a simple hall church with no side aisles. The nave has four barrel-vaulted bays, supported by heavy banding arches.
The third bay is not barrel-vaulted, but has a dome on squinches to support the clocher. In this elevation we can also see the wooden stairs and balconies on the north side that lead to the upper chapel. We can see the lower chapels below to the left. These three chapels are 15th century Gothic additions. We can also see the fine capitals that adorn the engaged columns that support the vault bands.
The oven-vaulted apse features three radiating chapels directly off of the choir, which is an unusual feature because there is no ambulatory or hemicycle. This is most likely because Saint Laurent was a collégiale and not a pilgrimage church.
The superimposed chapels are a unique feature of the church. They are decorated with wall paintings featuring the Last Judgment, the Triumph of the Cross, and the Passion of Christ.
The 12th century crucifix is one of our favorite features of Saint Laurent and reminds us of similar carvings in Moissac and Prunet-et-Belpuig. This can be seen in situ on the wall on the north side of the apse.
We didn’t really have enough time to do justice to the church because we were intruding on the lunchtime of the gardienne, who was kind enough to give us an hour and a half undisturbed. We must go back to photograph the Saint Michael’s chapel high on the north side of the church and the radiating chapels. We understand that there is a vierge romane somewhere in the church, but we must wait until the next visit to find her.
Location: 45.391937° 3.372968°