Église Saint Laurent d’Auzon (Dennis Aubrey)


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.

Exterior with ganivelle, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Exterior with ganivelle, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

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.

Ganivelle capital, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by PJ McKey

Ganivelle capital “Magi”, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

The interior is a simple hall church with no side aisles. The nave has four barrel-vaulted bays, supported by heavy banding arches.

Nave from organ loft, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Nave from organ loft, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

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.

North nave elevation, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

North nave elevation, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

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.

Apse, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Apse, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

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.

North side chapel, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

North side chapel, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

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.

Crucifix, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by PJ McKey

Crucifix, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

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.

Nave to west, Église Saint-Laurent d'Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire)  Photo by PJ McKey

Nave to west, Église Saint-Laurent d’Auzon, Auzon (Haute-Loire) Photo by PJ McKey

Location: 45.391937° 3.372968°

14 responses to “Église Saint Laurent d’Auzon (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. What extraordinary little church. I especially liked PJ’s view of the capital with the Adoration of the Three Kings (Magi), subject of my latest book. As a pilgrimage church, is it accompanied by a cloister of some kind? The first image viewed from below suggests it sits on a hill or mountain top. Great photography, as usual!

    • Thanks, Darrell. This is actually not a pilgrimage church but a collégiale. There is no cloister because it sits on a small outcropping of rock in the center of town, barely larger than the church itself. The town is, of course, on a hill of its own.

  2. Dennis, I don’t know if I will ever be invited to lecture again on medieval art, but I wanted to ask if it is O.K. to download images you post for my archives of medieval and Renaissance art (now numbering about 30,000 images)? I already downloaded one without asking to see if you installed a watermark and found that there were none I could see. I will erase it if you prefer we not capture any of the images. At this point in my life, I have no intention of publishing or profiting from any of my captured images and would consult with you in advance if I did. Like Bernard Berenson is said to have done with his Alinari photo archive now housed in his villa in Florence, I just love spending hours looking at images when I am not attempting to write something.

    • Darrell, the images we post are 700 pixels on the long side, so we don’t mind if you download these for your private use. We decided long ago to restrict the resolution and not watermark, since the details of the churches are fairly critical. Thanks for asking, by the way.

  3. Pingback: Via Arverna, 4. Etappe: Jumeaux – Brioude | Die Via Arverna – der uralte Jakobsweg in der Auvergne

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