15 December 2006

The Saint-Laurent priory at Palluau

One place I wasn't able to see on my first trip to Palluau-sur-Indre was the old priory dedicated to Saint-Laurent (Saint Lawrence). It was built in the 11th century and its walls are covered in polychrome frescoes dating back as far as the 12th century. I saw it and took these pictures there in July 2006.

The polychrome walls at the Saint-Laurent priory

The Michelin guide says these are some of the finest frescoes in the region. The painted figures include a Christ "in majesty" — that's an art term meaning he is sitting on a throne and wearing a crown — a Virgin Mary also in majesty, and an unnamed bishop or abbey who is holding a crozier (a staff).

La Vierge en majesté

A priory, by the way, is a small monastery or convent. This one was de-sacralized and turned into living quarters at some point in its long history. A fire in the 19th century destroyed all the archives that might have detailed the priory's history, so not much is known about it.

A wider view of the Virgin Mary in majesty

I found a couple of Web sites that give information and show some pictures of the frescoes in the Saint-Laurent priory. One has descriptions in English and French, and the other in French only. In all modesty, I think the pictures I'm posting are better than the ones on those sites (thanks to Photoshop).

The priory is open to the public. Rough wooden stairs and railings have been put up to make the place a little safer. The main chapel is above the old crypt (no frescoes there) and up half a level off the street.

There is enought paint and color left on the walls to give you a good idea how highly decorated the old priory really was. I've seen similar frescoes in the old church at Saint-Aignan, for example, and especially in the enormous church at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, about 65 km SW of Palluau. Both are worth a visit.

Le Christ en majesté

Here are a few more pictures.

I don't know how the wall paintings managed to survive for nearly 1000 years. Evidently they were painted over by residents of the building centuries ago. Village children discovered them just before World War II, according to the site in French I gave a link for above.

Serious restoration work began in the late 1970s and continued until about 1990.

Above and below, an unidentified bishop holding his crosier, or staff

The Saint-Laurent priory is on this fairly non-descript street, with a café-tabac, a grocery store (Alimentation), and an empty storefront on the other side. The town's main church and the château are on another street, parallel to this one and up higher on the hill the town sits on.


  1. Quelles superbes fresques ! J'aimerais bien aller les voir un jour où l'on vous rendra visite si ce n'est pas trop loin de votre village :-) Et dire qu'on n'a pas eu le temps d'aller voir l'Eglise de Saint-Aignan... Bon, ça sera pour la prochaine fois, na :-) ! Bises. Marie qui garde de merveilleux souvenirs de son séjour en Touraine :-)

  2. What a jewel of a town. Be there in cinq minutes! We'll go, right? You know it now like an old friend.


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