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Let yourself be surprised by its church

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Located about ten kilometers from Blois, Orchaise is full of stories and mysteries.

Let your children discover the history of this church of Carolingian origin

of which you will still see today the marks of this time: observe together these stones in the shape of house, just in front of the facade, which are the testimonies of this time.

Under its porch, you will discover the origin of the name of the village which is quite

surprising! But, the most amazing thing is hidden inside...

Close your eyes and enter to admire its choir which will undoubtedly

"bewitch" you and your children.

Image subject to copyright/personal archive

You will be surprised by this astonishing monumental fresco painted in 1993

by Denys de Solère on the 80 m² of the choir: "the glorious return of Christ led by Saint-Barthélemy" (the patron Saint of the church).

But do you know the little well kept secret of this church ?

The church is located on the heights of the Cisse Valley. Underneath, there were caves (now closed) where two rivers used to flow. An ideal location for a place of worship. According to some sources, we had a druidic temple right here!

This site was very famous and for a long time it was an important gathering place for the Carnutes people.

For those who want to know more about this Gallic people:

who are the Carnutes ?

The first testimonies about this people go back to the 1st century BC,

in particular thanks to the famous writings of Tite-live, a Roman historian and of course Julius Caesar in The Gallic War. Caesar took eight years to subdue Gaul, which was divided into three major peoples: the Belgians in the north,

the Aquitanians in the southwest and the Celts in the center.

Caesar named them the Gauls: a name that originated from the Celts' own language, and this is how they called themselves - Kelt, Guelt, Galth - before being called "Galli" by the Romans. This name will spread over a large part of the territory even in areas where the Celts did not live.

Thus, a Celtic is a Gaul but beware, not all Gauls are necessarily Celts!

The Carnutes are thus well Celts. And like many of these peoples, they come from elsewhere. Here is a small map highlighting the origins of this people

and their expansion into Europe:

[source :]

Two large waves of immigration took place in earlier times,

in the Neolithic period, from 6000 to 3000 BC.

They are one of the most important peoples of Gaul.

Their territory extends over part of the Loir-et-Cher, the Loiret and the Eure-et-Loire, their capital is Chartres, from which their name would come.

In the seventh year of the conquest of Gaul, this people rallied to the famous Vercingetorix, to rise up against Caesar's army and actively participated in the creation of the "Celtic Nation".

For comic book fans, you have probably seen them many times in the albums of Asterix and Obelix, such as:

The Golden Serp where Getafix, who broke his serp in the forest, can no longer go to the great ceremony that takes place among the Carnutes.

Asterix and the Goths, the druid goes to this great meeting of druids organized by their neighbors, the Carnutes.

The Soothsayer, Getafix, mentions the Carnutes while telling of his apprenticeship and their great druidic knowledge.

It is thus an important people and their territory in particular their temples will be often used as site of gathering for the druids of Celtic Gaul,

which meet there once a year.

These caves, located here in Orchaise, reflected this custom.

The druids are the masters of these temples. Their teaching was mainly oral, which is why it is difficult for us to know the real practices. According to the writings of Julius Caesar, the Gauls were very interested in religious practices.

The druids regularly make human sacrifices to their gods in particular, Lug,

the most important one, which would correspond to the Roman god, Mercury.

(read: Explore the sacred places of the Carnutes of Lavardin)

What were their beliefs ?

These distant ancestors explained certain phenomena of Nature by assuming that there were genies: Good and Evil.

To chase away evil, the druids purified the places where they hid by fire: air, fields, fountains, woods.

Celtic life is punctuated by many ceremonies.

These caves are part of the gathering places for these Celtic traditions.

When the priory (near the church) was built in 1060, under Philip I (8 years old!)

the monks had difficulties to convince this people to convert.

Over time, some pagan rites have been mixed with our Christian rites.

The perfect example is the Carnival! Its origins are Celtic.

In the past, we celebrated at the same time, the festival of Brandons (or bures)

Brandon meaning "straw stopper" which was, during this ceremony,

accompanied by a torch.

In the tradition, one created an immense pyre by going to cut in the wood, a long and right tree, no matter the species, and the night fallen, a procession was formed musette and hurdy-gurdy in head.

This tradition was celebrated for a long time in all our villages in France,

as it is here in Orchaise.

The purpose of this rite was to keep away the Evil and to guarantee good harvests,

in this new year, which formerly started in March. A fire of straw for a happy year!

A festival which unfortunately fell into oblivion and which replaced the famous Carnival.

translation by DeepL / sources : Jean-Louis Brunaux. The Celts, a myth that crosses the centuries. Dossiers d'Archéologie, Éditions Faton, 2015,

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