Friday, August 21, 2009

12th Century Churches

By the 1100s , France was pulling out of the dark ages. Anarchy was being replaced by the feudal system. While grossly unfair to the common man, people could feel relatively safe under the protection of their local castellian. At least these noblemen were beholden to god, and as such, commissioned the construction of countless abbeys to assuage their transgressions. Given recent victories over the Moors in Spain and the conquering of Jerusalem in 1098, the Christian God seemed powerful indeed and the more ecclesiastical in your city, the better.

Riding through the French countryside, I was at first impressed by the 800-year-old edifices that I encountered. But now, I realize they are common place. It is still amazing that these churches have survived the elements and social and political upheavals. Many religious structures were defaced during the French Revolutions, for example. So, while most villages can lay claim to a 12th century abbey, the condition of these structures varies greatly.

The abbeys of St. Etienne des Sorts and Venéjan are case studies for this difference. Both churches are perched on the highest points overlooking the villages. However, the abbey of St. Etienne is crumbling into a pile of rock. It's even sadder to see that kids have painted graffiti on the remaining stone walls. In Venéjan, the ancient church stands proudly at the apex of a well planned hillside park that even features an open-air amphitheater and a historic windmill. On the day I visited, the church was locked, but the fact that it still has four walls and lockable doors signifies it's victory over time.

IMG_3892.JPG picture0060

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
This work by Ken Maschke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.