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The hidden treasures of the church of Lavardin

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

The church of Saint-Genest,

a real treasure of romanesque Art

in Loir-et-Cher.

Get ready to explore a church that holds many treasures !

Take your children to this incredible site and let them observe these precious testimonies of Romanesque art and the rich past of this church.

First step: observe the small exterior sculptures together.

Have them play an observation game: find the typical details of this Romanesque period.

  • The face of a bearded Gallic warrior with a strong moustache (south facade, presbytery side).

  • The portrait of a young woman dressed in Roman fashion, reminiscent of the beautiful period of Antiquity, representing a sign of the zodiac, the scales (above the central window of the apse).

  • A little further on, two other symbols of the zodiac, the Gemini and the lion (in the past, there was also the Capricorn next to it, now disappeared).

  • Still visible, a representation called "a cartouche", of two workers or architects, one holding a compass, the other, a square.

These sculptures belong to the Romanesque style.

In those times, churches were built to be the meeting place between man and God.

The clerics prayed, the nobles fought and the peasants worked.

The people could neither read nor write, it is thanks to Art that the Church will teach and transmit the stories of the Saints, the subjects of the Bible, what is Good, what is Evil and sometimes the portraits of the builders as here (bishops, architects, lords).

There are two styles in the Middle Ages: this one called the Romanesque Art which was born around 950 and the second one, the Gothic Art which arrived later,

during the XII century.

The Romanesque Art is a sober style, sometimes austere, which resembles the ancient art, especially Roman. It used to be called "ancient gothic".

Second step: visit the interior and look for the intruder !

Admire the frescoes that cover the walls of this church!

Don't you notice anything?

The scenes are numerous and rather confusing.

Do you know why?

Because here, there are several periods which are superimposed

and thus several styles!

Most of the frescoes were realized during the XIV to the extreme

end of the XV century.

However, there is a figure which does not resemble any other.

Look for it !

The Baptism of Christ is our intruder !

(photo attached)

The Baptism of Christ is surprising : look at its simple, long lines and the purity of the drawing. The synthetic lines that form the outline of the figure of Christ.

Here we see all the strength of the expression of the drawing, nothing naive or abstract. This importance of the clean line refers us to the Anglo-Norman styles of illumination.

But why is this style, so far from the features of Romanesque art,

represented here ?

We must not forget that the English laid siege to the castle twice. It is therefore assumed that this drawing was made by a foreign artist. It is a rare testimony of the Hundred Years War where the English sometimes left some influences on their passage.

Note also other details:

  • On the capitals which date from the XI century, we find representations of black figures (rare representations), was it a king magician or Mary the Egyptian?

  • We can also observe an apostle on each pillar of the nave on the right. There is also the emblem of sin in the form of these allegorical creatures embracing.

  • In the middle of the church, note this tombstone dating from the 16th century. It bears the name of a woman named Gaullier. We do not know who this lady was, but she was probably a holy woman or a very rich lady.

To finish this little discovery, take the time to admire the drawing of these frescoes : we notice a graceful line and a certain ease in these lines which bring an elegant and vibrant touch, far from the abstraction and the sobriety strongly recommended by the Church, which wish to lead thanks to these drawings, to the way of the recollection and the meditation.

This particular touch in this drawing, we find it everywhere in the department. This is why, these testimonies tend to prove the existence of a

school of decorative painters established on the banks of the Loir.

A nice surprise which testifies to the rich past of this region and its incredible artistic production.

After having explored this magnificent church, go and discover a now unknown civilization: the Carnutes

Translation by DeepL



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