Monday, August 26, 2013

A jewel of a church in a tiny hamlet

Well, we don't lack for charming medieval villages around here.  Take your pick , most of them have something of intrigue or appeal or are just so tiny and boring as to be fascinating on that account. 

 I mean, being stuck in a tiny cluster of houses where water is rationed and the town square is as big as a handkerchief, and where one is far from the nearest bakery or store takes a certain kind of resident. This does get my imagination going, no kidding.  Who is this person? 

 This weekend, Jeanne invited me to stay overnight in her place in the Roya Valley.  Lucky me.   She wanted to introduce me to some of her favorite spots.   On Sunday we headed for the small hamlet of Brigue which is not accessible on the "Train des Merveilles"  and which I had never visited ( not having a donkey or a car.) 

 It happened to be the day of a giant brocante sale   (second hand goods and some antiques being sold in stands).  These are very popular in the south of France but we were headed for a hike so we by-passed the village and kept on going.  

Just outside of the town, on the way to our trail, was a chapel, not to be believed.  A  Church is tucked in the woods there.. filled with quite expressive and impressive "fresci" painted during the 15th century!  The panels are almost in perfect condition and they have never been restored!  Take a look. 

We are told that when the Seven Springs dried up the villagers prayed to the Virgin at this spot dating even before the Christian faith. 

When water again flowed, the villagers suspected a miracle and built a church honoring the Virgin.  This was then the 12th century.   The nave was added to the vestry and chancel in the 14th century. 

 The design of the chancel was done al fresco by Giovanni Baleison in 1481.  It depicts the last moments of the Virgin's life.  It is quite striking with its deep, rich colors.

The walls of the nave are entirely covered in paintings by Giovanni Canavesio.   His work marries seamlessly with that of Baleison.   He began his work in 1489 and completed the panels in 1492.  

The altar and the vestry

 Canavesio creates the whole  Passion of Christ in 25 numbered scenes.   Here I have included three of them.  Notice how spirited the drawings are , especially the "flagellation" scene above.  That must have captured his imagination.   But two panels remain un-numbered, " the hanging of Judas" and the "last judgement" which are depicted on the exit wall.   This is an exceptional village church for those of you who are delighted by such things. 

This is the modest exterior of the Chapel Notre Dame des Fontaines in La Brigue

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