19 May 2020

L'Église Saint-Genest de Lavardin

St. Genès (or Genest, Genêt) was a Roman actor who converted to Christianity during a performance and later was martyred. The church in Lavardin is dedicated to his memory, as are churches and chapels in about 10 other towns all around France, including Metz and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. A dozen French towns towns also carry his name.

L'Église Saint-Genest de Lavardin — I haven't read anything that explained why the church is dedicated to him — is famous for the wall paintings inside the church, which date back to the 12th century. The church itself was more than likely built in the 11th century, or at least construction was started then. Here's what it looked like when I was there in January 2004.

Back then, Walt and I drove up to Lavardin and Vendôme from Saint-Aignan just for a day out, after feeling a little confined because of miserable winter weather through December and January. We took advantage of one of the first nice days we'd had in two or three months to enjoy an excursion. I didn't really know anything about Lavardin at that point, but Walt and I had drive through the village in June 2001, when we were spending two weeks in the wine village called Vouvray, nears Tours. We didn't go inside the church, however. We didn't know about the wall paintings inside. This is another view of the interior of the St. Genest church.

Here's another photo of the church. It's bathed in the light of the afternoon sun on January 25, 2004. That's Walt on the road taking a photo. I went back to Lavardin in 2015 with my friend CHM and finally went inside the church to take some photos. It was more interesting and the murals were more extensive than I had imagined.

I took these pictures of the murals using a Canon SX700 HS camera that I don't even have any more — I gave it to a friend in 2018 because I had another camera that I liked better, a Panasonic. But I have to say the Canon camera did a very good job inside the Lavardin church. I've posted some of the photos as slide shows and others in other blog posts over the past five years.

This painting, or what is left of it, looks fairly mysterious, I think. If you have any ideas about what it represents, I'd appreciate hearing them.

These wall paintings in the church at Lavardin were hidden by a coat of whitewash or plaster for two or three hundred years and re-discovered in the early part of the 20th century, just before World War I. They've been restored in recent years.


  1. I must have some photos of Lavardin somewhere, but I can't access them right now. Yours are very good and I enjoyed the memories.

  2. That one painting is a mystery.The white puffy things on the left look a little like toes to me. Zodizc signs and weird red phoenix? Maybe the artist was having pandemic dreams lol.

  3. Wow, I'm itching to go there!
    It is hard to make out what any of that is in the mysterious painting, but maybe the lions represent the Plantagenets? Their lion symbol always seems to be represented in gold on red background (or vice versa) with the tail curled like this, and I read something about the town having been attacked by Henry II and Richard, Coeur de Lion, unsuccessfully. Maybe it's in reference to the Capetians keeping them at bay? Who knows! Ha!

  4. The mysterious painting, maybe clouds and cherubs to indicate heaven, with coats of arms from local families that are there? A wild guess...The construction of the tower is unusual with its two-part top, as well; it looks like it was extended.

  5. If you separate this photo in two vertically about the middle, it looks like two diferent scenes painted over each other. Which is the oldest, I have no idea.


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