Saint Just de Valcabrère (Dennis Aubrey)


This is the second post of the Église Saint Just de Valcabrère. Since the first was a brief study of the superb north portal, this will take a look at the architecture of what can only be described as almost an iconic Romanesque church.

Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The nave features a barrel vault supported by transverse arches carried by heavy piers. There is no transept, but the crossing tower is carried over the first bay of the nave. The main entrance to the church is unusual, however, being in the north wall. Notice the wonderful floor of large paved slabs surrounded by rubble.

Nave, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Nave, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

One feature that is quite clear in the church is that many of the stones and dressings from the old destroyed Roman town were used to build and adorn Saint Just. The Vandals destroyed the Roman city of Lugdunum Convenarum in the fifth century. In this shot of the apse from the south side aisle, we can see a lovely sculpted frieze and some dressed stone.

Apse, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Apse, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

We can see in this shot of the apse how the builders reused materials from the Roman city. The hemicycle is composed of columns and capitals repurposed for use in the church. The apse itself is covered with an oven vault and pierced by deep windows to the exterior.

Apse, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Apse, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Two open side aisles flank the nave and terminate in a small apsidal chapel.

Side aisle, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Side aisle, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

In this shot we can see the very short passage between the south apsidal chapel and the choir. Notice again the re-used Roman column and capital to the left of the passage.

Passage from apsidal chapel to choir, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Passage from apsidal chapel to choir, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

This font by the north entrance is a classic re-use of a Roman element. A capital has been placed on a small column, hollowed out and used as a font for holy water.

Font, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Font, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

Saint Just no longer serves as a place of worship and as a result is empty of any furnishings. Often this creates a desolate feeling in the viewer, but here it is quite the opposite. There is a sensation that one is in a shrine, one hallowed by extreme age. In fact, when a group of Korean tourists came in with their guide, listened to a three-minute lecture, took pictures for two minutes, and then left, the resulting quiet was quite remarkable. I remember sitting and enjoying the emptiness, the silence, and the coolness of the old stones.

North door, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

North door, Église Saint Just de Valcabrère, Valcabrère (Haute-Garonne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Saint Just de Valcabrère is just one of seventy Romanesque churches in the immediate region. Just to the south lie the churches of the Val d’Aran and the Val de Boi, both treasure-troves of Romanesque art. The small church dedicated to the Spanish martyr Saint Justus is one of the finest.

Location: 43.028340° 0.584887°

5 responses to “Saint Just de Valcabrère (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. The stone tones in these photos invite me to visit. I want to go there when the world has gone mad. I want to walk on the slab and rubble floor and remember that millions of footsteps have crossed it before me. I see there are chairs – if it’s not possible to worship, at least I’d be able to sit down.

  2. It’s brilliant how so many churches from this era were built using what remained from the old Roman towns. I’ve probably seen loads of Roman-era masonry without realizing it.

    As for the emptiness, I think I prefer the church being without chairs or benches–just as they were hundreds of years ago.

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