The town of Quimperlé fooled us completely.
We went to the market town about 20 kilometers northwest of Lorient in order to see the Romanesque rotunda church, the Église Sainte-Croix. We immediately headed up the hill to the center of town towards the dominating spire of a church, knowing with certainty that we would find our objective. We did so and discovered a lovely church, the Église Saint Michel. It was, however, neither Romanesque nor round. We searched the city map in the parking lot and discovered that the church lay below us in a section of town at the confluence of the Isole and Ellé rivers that combine to form the Laïta river. This, the Low Town, not the HIgh Town, was the original site of Quimperlé.
In the Low Town, however, we found our objective. Sainte Croix is immediately distinguished by its rotunda shape “… a rotunda ultimately derived from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, although the more immediate inspiration was probably Neuvy-Saint-Sepulchre.” (George A. Nebolsine: Journey into Romanesque)
The Sainte-Croix was originally built in the middle of the 11th Century but has been restored many times over the years, which explains the beautiful condition of the church today. The rotunda church is built in the shape of a Greek cross and features three short apses at the west, south, and east sides and a raised choir in the center.
Below the choir and to the north is a floor level crypt with a lovely 16th Century mise en tombeau made of Saintonge limestone.
Above the crypt to the north and on the same level as the raised choir is a monk’s choir where the offices of the monastery were practiced. It is a lovely and unique structure.
The church is quite large – the rotunda itself measures 26 meters and is the largest in France.
On a photographic note, the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4 L Tilt-Shift lens was made for a church like this. As PJ said, “Bubbles shredded this church!” (she recently spent some time with her young son in Northern California and has introduced me to such concepts as “shredding”).
Tomorrow we start shooting in Normandy for a week before heading to the east and Vézelay.