A New Podcast – Painted Romanesque

We are all accustomed to see Romanesque and Gothic churches with their austere bone-white pillars, walls, and vaulting and assume this look was the intent of the builders. When modern churches in the classical style are built, they usually follow this aesthetic guideline. The truth is that the medieval churches were often brightly painted with geometric patterns, frescoes, and polychrome capitals. In many churches we can see the remnants of these paintings, like in the Basilique Saint Julien in Brioude, among others. Using these fragments as a guide, modern restorers repainted the churches as they believe they might have existed originally. Whether or not their choices meet with approval, these interpretations give a powerful indication of how these churches may have originally looked.

South side aisle, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Here are some links to articles we have written about the painted Romanesque churches.

Painted Romanesque
Église Saint George, Bourbon-l’Archambault
Église Saint Sulpice, Marignac
Église Saint Nicholas, Civray
Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire
Color and Saint Austremoine, Issoire
Églises Saint Savin (Vienne)

This podcast can also be found at the following hosting sites along with all of our other previous episodes.


Please listen and if you are so inclined, follow and comment. We are anxious for feedback on this newest Via Lucis venture.

6 thoughts on “A New Podcast – Painted Romanesque

  1. Am I right in thinking that the exteriors of many churches and cathedrals were also once painted in bright colours? Various churches and cathedrals in France now have Light and Sound shows projecting onto them at night which I presume must reflect the previous colourful facades and there are several which can be seen on YouTube. I remember seeing one at Notre-Dame-la-Grande in Poitiers and it was startling to see the many statues on the facade come alive in this way. To the medieval faithful it must have been even more startling to see the brightly coloured church facades and interiors which must have contrasted greatly with their own drab surroundings.
    I do wish I had had your knowledge of Romanesque architecture when I visited Poitiers as there must be so much I missed! I do remember attending Mass in Ste Radegonde on one occasion but at the time had no idea of its history. Your posts really are encouraging me to make a return visit one day – thank you!

    1. Elizabeth, funny that you should mention this. Just after I published the podcast, PJ said “We didn’t talk about color on the exteriors!” And you’re right about the light shows. The first time we saw the Chartres show, on the north portal the statues were “painted” as they would have been when the cathedral was built. We still see traces of the polychrome on many of the churches (the tympanum of Conques especially, because of its sheltered position, but also the tympanum at Saint Benoit). As far as your returning to Poitiers, it is so rich in the Romanesque. We are going back in October again!

      1. It is particularly poignant to watch the Son et Lumiere on the facade of Notre Dame Paris on You tube now. The two towers were so nearly lost in the fire. A friend sent me the youtube video via email and although I have visited Paris many times I have never seen the Light show there. I understand the powers that be are still discussing whether Notre Dame should be restored as it was or whether it should have a modern design added to it. I sincerely hope the former!

      2. The Senat has ordained that the restoration must be to the state at the time of the fire. That will be voted on soon. Hopefully that will carry!

  2. That’s a relief! I read somewhere there was talk of building a glass greenhouse to grow plants on top of the Cathedral.

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