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