24 July 2015

Etampes : « Notre-Dame-du-Fort »

There are three impressive churches in the big town of Etampes, just south of Paris. One is Saint-Martin with the leaning tower, which I posted about yesterday. Another, in the center of the old town, is the Eglise Collégiale de Notre-Dame. Here's a view from up the road that runs past the church.

In Etampes, Notre-Dame has a nickname. It's called Notre-Dame-du-Fort because the church, built from the 1130s to the 1150s, was fortified in the 1300s, to protect it, I assume, from English forces during the 100 Years War. The church has what the Michelin guide calls a « fin clocher roman » (a fine Romanesque bell tower) that soars high above massive stone fortifications.

Some of the church's doorways — seen above and below — could be compared the the Royal Entrance at the Cathédrale de Chartres, the Michelin guide says. Unfortunately, they were badly "mutilated" during the Wars of Religion in the 1560s.

Here's a close view of the panel of carved figures just above the church door. Because of the damage inflicted during the religious wars — Etampes was occupied by Huguenot troops — it's hard to interpret the meaning of the scenes depicted.

Finally, here's a shot of the lower part of the church's bell tower that I took from pretty far away. The Michelin guide describes the tower's stone steeple as « cantonnée de clochetons ajourés » — "surrounded by openwork pinnacles."

I didn't get to go into the church. I enjoyed a quick walk around the town and took these photos with my then-new Canon digital camera.


  1. Even though the sculptures are badly damaged, as you say, I'l try to decipher some of it. In my opinion, in the middle left there is the Dormition of Mary and on the right the Massacre of the Innocents and the Flight into Egypt.

    Probably in 2002, I went to mass with Frank in this church. The inside is tout biscornu [all twisty?].

    1. One of the brochures that P sent me says of the portail sud : L'iconographie est incertaine suite aux dommages des Guerres de Religion. Les statues-colonnes sont peut-être des personnages de l'Ancien Testament. Les frises des chapiteaux évoquent les thèmes de l'Incarnation et de la Rédemption...

      I do believe that the door I photographed is the portail sud. Tell me if you think otherwise.

    2. Pour être franc, je n'en ai aucune idée. Les statues colonnes dont parle la brochure font partie du portail royal qui n'est pas celui-ci. Mes recherches ne m'ont permis de trouver qu'une seule photo du portail sud hormis les tiennes. Un site mentionne le fait que cette église a plus de sept portes, donc ça laisse le choix!

      Il me semble que ce qui reste des sculptures de ce portail a trait à la Vierge, ce qui explique mes attributions, mais je ne suis pas un spécialiste. Je n'ai trouvé aucune détail qui viendrait corroborer mes assertions.

    3. I agree with chm's interpretation of the panel. It appears to be, from left to right, the Annunciation, the birth of Christ and the visit of the shepherds, the killing of the Innocents and the flight to Egypt.

  2. This site offers a description of at least some of the the stone figures in the tympanum over the door, as well a floor plan, and interior photos of the church (if you keep scrolling to the right):


    "Biscornu" is new to me, but seems like a very handy word. Thanks, chm.

    1. Merci, Diogenes, du lien pour N.-D.-du-Fort. From the floor plan, I was able to see that Ken's photo was that of the portail occidental and not of the south one.

      As for biscornu, I could have said the interior was tout de guingois which is basically the same idea.

  3. LOL. This page says this is the portail sud. This one says it is the portail ouest (ou occidental). Neither one is the one I photographed. And which one is the portail royal? Who knows? It seems like Notre-Dame-du-Fort is an enigma wrapped in a paradox hidden inside a mystery. Oh well, I'll probably never see it again. Another church!


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?