Notre-Dame (Châtel-Montagne)

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Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, general view from the south
Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, head of the choir from the east

Notre-Dame was the church of a small Cluniac priory ( monastic convent ) and is part of the French community Châtel-Montagne in the Allier department , on the border between the Auvergne and Burgundy regions , a good 20 kilometers east of Vichy and about 35 kilometers west of Roanne . Châtel-Montagne is bordered by the repeatedly dammed Besbre river .

The church is located on the northern outskirts of the village, outside of its closed development, from which it is separated by a spacious village square. It was mainly built in the 12th century and integrates a previous building from before 1082. The three-aisled church has the elevation (cross-section) of a pure basilica , in which the central nave is directly illuminated through the cliff windows and an ambulatory choir with a chapel wreath made up of four radial chapels suggesting its use as a pilgrimage church. The facade of its two-storey porch is the only one that survived the French Revolution without damage.


For a long time, Châtel-Montagne was difficult to access because of its location on the steep slopes of the Besbre in the heart of the Bourbonnais Mountains (historical province) on the border between the departments of Allier and Saône-et-Loire .

Its early settlement is proven by numerous finds of artifacts such as flint tools and pottery shards. In the Gallic era it was probably a oppidum , a fortified, city-like scale settlement of La Tene period (late Iron Age ), to protect the old road from Vichy to Roanne before it by the Romans has been occupied.

In the 11th century the " Castrumin Montanis", as it has been called since Roman times, is home to one of the most important baronies in the former Bourbonnais province. Two stumps of the towers and the remains of their walls still bear witness to its former castle fortress.

At that time, what is probably the first parish church that belonged to the Diocese of Clermont already existed on the current site . One document says: "The church, built in honor of the Virgin Mary, is in Châtel". According to local oral tradition, it is said to have been built on the initiative of a wealthy resident named Ponthonnier.

Around 1082, a Seigneur Dalmas and his wife Étiennette gave the monks of Cluny all the goods they owned in Châtel-Montagne, including the Notre-Dame church and a chapel. The size of the donation was considerable and was intended to establish and maintain a small monastery community. Pope Urban II documented this donation in 1095, the first written mention of Cluny's possessions over Châtel .

Original structure, floor plan

The small priory was to be set up for three to four monks, the monastery buildings with a cloister were directly connected to the area north of the church.

This church is the building, the remains of which are still preserved in the current building with the lower parts of the front nave ( yokes 3 and 4) and the transept . The floor plan consisted of a three-aisled and two-bay nave, a transept that was barely protruding at the side and a staggered choir head made of a wider choir apse, which were flanked by two slender chapel apses. The design of the building was simple and without architectural ornamentation, the pillars had square and rectangular cross-sections, the component edges were rectangular. At this time, the nave and transept were not covered by stone vaults, but by wooden beam ceilings. Only the apses were vaulted with half spherical caps. The attached floor plan shows a very likely reconstruction.

First extension, floor plan

At the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, the first campaign to build the new church, which was completed around 1125, began. For economic reasons, apart from the west wall, the outer walls of the nave, the walls of the transept and initially the complete choir head of the original building were included, which were integrated into the new and extension building for reuse.

Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, elevations

The nave, which is still three-aisled, was extended to the west by two additional bays to a total of four. It received a stone vault under a shared gable roof. The central nave was covered with barrel vaults on belt arches, the side aisles by half barrel vaults on half belt arches, the apex of which exactly matched the vaulting of the central nave. The partition walls between the aisles, with the arcades cut out in them , were completely renewed and lengthened by two bays.

It is not known whether the transept received new vaults with the first vaulting of the nave. In any case, today's very high transept vaults were only created after the central nave was later raised.

On the north side of the nave, the stiffening with buttresses in extension of the belt arches was initially dispensed with, as the monastery buildings attached there, such as the cloister , had taken on this task.

The second construction campaign began almost seamlessly around 1130, the erection of the porch with one of the few fully designed facades in the Auvergne.

Around 1150, when it was completed, the third construction campaign began with the new construction of the choir head consisting of an access choir with a chapel wreath made up of four radial chapels and the demolition of the old choir head of the original church. This work was finished towards the end of the 12th century. Until this campaign, the roofs and gables of the transept with the crossing had the same height as the original structure, which was initially clearly surmounted by the adjoining gables of the central nave and the choir bay.

The addition of heights to the central nave vault around the Obergaden zone is also included in the same campaign. Its beginning was dated firmly by Le-Fèvre-Pontalis to 1150, whose view is later adopted by Marcel Aubert, Génermont, Pradel and Balme. For the author Bernard Craplet, this claim does not seem well founded. He refers to the uniformity of the entire central nave, which suggests a single design and consistent implementation. He substantiates his interpretation with the fact that there are “no traces of any repairs to be seen”, which should have appeared between the dividing walls and the later bricked up walls of the upper storey zones.

The first assumption is confirmed by the representations of an elevation of the nave shown in the church with a central nave vault, which without an upper aisle starts directly at the height of the apex of the aisle vault, and shows the design of the partition walls and aisles from the first campaign (see sketch). This execution status proves that today's central nave vault with its upper aisle zone would only have to have been increased later. The second assumption by Craplet assumes that the status with the lower central nave did not exist and that the high central nave was already executed in the first campaign.

The first reliable written mention of the Cluniac priory of Châtel-Montagne took place in 1131: a document from the Bishop Armerie de Clermont recognized the prior to make the appointment in the parish of Artefeuilles.

St. James pilgrims, woodcut from 1568
Jacob's tomb, Santiago de Compostela

The today's surprisingly large choir head of the church and the huge volume of the building in such a small village in a secluded location suggest that it was a formerly important pilgrimage church that was an important stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela .

The pilgrimages that began towards the end of the 11th century and the associated income from donations probably also triggered the first renovation campaigns in Châtel-Montagne, above all the vaulting of the ships and the expansion of the nave to around twice the volume. The second construction campaign, the erection of the two-storey porch porch, was another increase in the usable area of ​​the church. The largest expansion section, the new choir head with ambulatory and chapel wreath , from the middle of the 12th century, coincided with the end of the great heyday of the pilgrimage to Santiago in the first half of the 12th century. For a pilgrimage church, above all, more space was needed for the numerous pilgrims , such as the ambulatory and side aisles, and as many chapels as possible for the presentation of relics and their veneration. At that time, the pilgrimage churches also often served as overnight accommodation for pilgrims.

Châtel-Montagne was about 40 kilometers east of the route from Nevers to Clermont running almost in a straight line from north to south of the pilgrimage route (today N7 and N9), which opened up the entire Auvergne region with numerous pilgrimage churches for pilgrims.

When the quarrels between France and England over Aquitaine began after the middle of the 12th century , the pilgrimage declined. The wars of the 13th and 14th centuries Century, such as the Hundred Years War (1339-1453), brought a dramatic slump. The monastic community could therefore no longer benefit from the expansion of their church.

When the construction of the choir head began in the middle of the 12th century, the rush of the pilgrims to the pilgrimage churches, including Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, had reached its peak. The builders had to ensure that the services of the numerous pilgrims went largely undisturbed. So the idea came up to initially keep the three apses of the original choir head for religious use for as long as possible, while work on the new choir head could be continued beyond their walls. This could be achieved by moving the choir head away from the east wall of the transept with a connecting wing to be added later. It was not until the erection of the western gable wall of the choir head was reached that the openings in the eastern transept wall had to be temporarily closed to separate the pilgrim-filled worship space from the construction work. Only now could the apses be demolished and the rest of the work on the choir head continued, which was completed in a relatively short time with the insertion of the connecting section (see also section Building / Choir Head).

At the turn of the 12th to the 13th century, the fourth building campaign began, in which the upper parts of the transept and crossing were changed and the two-storey, almost square crossing tower was built. This section also includes the construction of the narthex in front of the south portal.

View from the west with spire, hand sketch

At the beginning of the 13th century, the church received a stone Gothic tower spire, which was 13 meters high and tapered to a point and lasted for almost 600 years.

In the early 13th century, when the church had reached its largest volume and richest furnishings, the building belonged to the powerful family of those of Montmorillon, who resided in a castle about 4 kilometers east of Châtel-Montagne, of which a ruin still exists today . Towards the end of the 13th century it belonged to the Marquis de Lapalisse. The place is about 20 kilometers south of Châtel-Montagne.

The regular presence of a prior and four monks for 1294, 1310 and 1353 was documented in a “register of visits” (control visits).

In 1331 the priory was subordinated to the canons of Lavenne (in Puy-de-Dôme, near Maringues). Another source mentions the year 1501 for this event. From then on the monastery buildings fell into ruins.

In 1462 the church became a parish church again . Until the establishment of the diocese of Moulins in 1822, it was part of the diocese of Clermont.

In 1794, the Jacobin parish, which was active here, had the village renamed “Mount sur Besbre” and had the 13-meter-high spire torn down. Then she sold the church building, which was then rededicated as a warehouse for saltpeter . It was guarded by the National Guard and prevented from being completely demolished.

Around 1835, the northern chapel, which had the same semicircular floor plan as the other radial chapels, was changed to one with a rectangular floor plan. At the same time the church was decorated with marble imitations and bronze parts . The chapel wreath was decorated with so-called "puffy angels" (fr. Ans bouffis ) on blue backgrounds.

In 1840 the church was added to the list of historical monuments ( Monument historique ) and the first restorations began: From 1850 to 1900 extensive restoration work followed, the task of which was to remove the often unfortunate changes that had taken place over the years to restore as far as possible the authentic appearance at the beginning of the 13th century after the four building campaigns. The side walls of the nave were significantly repaired in the 19th century. Numerous corbels, cornices and the cornices with roller friezes surrounding the arches of the windows were renewed. The buttresses on the north wall of the nave, where the cloister of the monastery used to be, date from the years 1855 to 1868. At that time, the facades of the transept arms were completely restored and provided with clumsy gables. The choir head was also not spared by the restorers: cornices and corbels were completely renewed and the roof redesigned. One has to doubt that the roof of the choir head originally had such a closed line and that the chapel roofs were so flat. The top one or two layers of the masonry of the chapels and the gallery are now made of almost white ashlar and are clearly different from the masonry below. This could perhaps indicate a late major correction of these eaves areas. In the course of these restorations, a chapel that had been added on the north side in the fourth yoke in the 17th century was removed.

For economic reasons, the stone spire was not rebuilt. Since then, efforts have only been made to carry out routine maintenance work on the roofs and the seals that have become necessary.


Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, all construction phases, floor plan

Dimensions (approx., Measured from the floor plan and extrapolated):

  • Overall length outside (without pillar templates): 42.2 m
  • Outside width of the nave (without pillar templates): 13.4 m
  • Inside width of the nave: 11.2 m
  • Central nave width (between the pillars): 2.5 m
  • Longhouse length inside: 17.8 m
  • Outside transept length (without pillar templates): 13.9 m
  • Transept width: 3.5 m
  • Choir apse width inside: 6.2 m
  • Inner ambulatory width: 2.2 m
  • Portal front width (without pillar templates): 12.1 m
  • Portal structure depth (without pillar templates): 5.5 m
  • Central nave height in the top of the vault: 12.6 m


Panorama from the south

Foothills of the Massif des Monts de Madelaine form the border between Auvergne and Bourgogne in the east of Vichy . They gently fall towards the valley of the Allier and are cut deeply by the valley of the Besbre and its tributaries. In the hilly, secluded area you rarely come across a village. The visitor is all the more surprised by the discovery of this magnificent Romanesque church, considered one of the most remarkable in the Bourbonnais of today . Its rather idiosyncratic architecture poses numerous puzzles to art historians. In this border area, their builders were inspired by the architecture of Auvergne , as well as that of Burgundy, especially the Clunys , to which the Priory of Châtel belonged. You can make out at least four stylistically different phases of renovation from the Romanesque, which nevertheless form a harmonious unit. The church stands on the northern edge of the community on a hill, outside and above its closed buildings, from which it is separated by a spacious village square. On the south side of the church is the immediate surrounding level up to almost two meters above the adjoining level of the square and the village street. This difference in height is marked by a wall, made of rubble stones of all sizes and shapes, which are walled up in a wild association and diminishes to zero in an easterly direction. Generous outside stairs lead from the lower level to the two portals on the south and west sides.

General view of SO

Outward appearance

Almost all structural parts of the church are made of rough granite ashlar, the walls are made of large-format cuboids and wedge stones. The great hardness of this stone material limits its artistic sculpture and hardly allows delicate structures. The granite used on the porch is coarser than in the other parts of the church, which is not least due to the strict appearance of its facade. The stones are covered with a warm saffron and honey-colored patina . Their rough surfaces come into their own in the light of the deep afternoon sun. The slab crags used in the eaves to support the eaves cornice, with their very delicate sculpture, are probably made of less hard material. They probably owe their largely intact shape to the restorations of the 19th century. On the eaves of the bell tower and the southern portal vestibule there are still heavily weathered planed chipboard bricks that have survived over the centuries.


Longhouse, north face of NO

Larger parts of the nave are still from the original structure from before 1082, such as the outer walls of the aisles, from the middle of the 2nd yoke to the transept and from the outer level to the height of the arches of the windows.

The spacious nave consists of three unusually high naves and four bays, which are separated by buttresses protruding more and less. The significantly higher central nave is covered by a gable roof with a slope of about 35 degrees and the lower side aisles with pent roofs at the same slope.

The roofs are covered with red hollow tiles in Roman shape, which are also called monk-nun tiles . The lower rows of tiles protrude slightly above the front of the widely projecting from Traufgesimses consisting of strong, cross-sectionally rectangular stone slabs, the lower visible edges slightly fluted chamfers are broken. The slabs lie horizontally on closely spaced chipboard bricks. The undulating openings created between the cornice panels and the roof tiles on top are mortared flush with the front of the cornice panels. The rainwater can drip off freely from the roof tiles.

View from the southwest

The buttresses of the longitudinal walls of the side aisles reach almost up to the level of their eaves, where their tops are sloped outwards by 45 degrees. They are reduced to a smaller cross-section in the upper section, above the windows. The reduction is marked by a simple cantilever profile, the lower visible edge of which is broken by a slightly chamfered bevel. Centered between the buttresses, a round arched window with right-angled (sharp) soffit edges is recessed in each yoke . The Keilsteinbogen is covered by a cornice with a simple roller frieze, which swings horizontally at the level of the arches and is led up to the buttresses. On the north side, the cornice is equipped with a cantilever profile over the windows, as is used on the buttresses.

In the upper cladding area of ​​the central nave, a group of three blind arcades with sharp-edged reveals is embedded in each yoke, the middle of which contains a slightly smaller round-arched window.

The former facade of the nave, which had strong buttresses as an extension of its longitudinal walls, now disappears completely under the portal porch that was added later. The large round arched main portal still in the vestibule today probably corresponds to that in the former facade of the nave. What a possible window opening above the portal looked like can no longer be determined, as in the course of the work on the portal porch, the former facade wall in the area of ​​its upper floor was opened to almost the entire inner width and height of the central nave elevation. At that time, the sloping upper sides of the façade wall only barely exceeded the roof slopes.

South narthex of SW
Portal porch, facade from NW

On the south side of the nave, an open narthex was built on an almost square floor plan before the second yoke in the 13th century . Its closed side walls are an extension of the buttresses of the aisle. It is covered by a slightly steeper gable roof than the others, but with the same roofing and eaves formation, but the wood-chip crags are heavily weathered. Last but not least, a different dating to the 19th century is ruled out. The sloping upper sides of the southern gable wall protrude slightly over the roof surfaces at the same inclination and are covered by thick panels flush with the surface. The ridge of this wall is adorned with a simple stone cuboid that widens slightly towards the top. The vertical ends of the gable wall completely cover the eaves overhang, their upper ends are finished with transom profiles. A large round arched arcade with sharp arched edges opens up on the front. Its arch stands on three-quarter round columns, which are equipped with simple capitals, profiled warriors and bases. The interior of the narthex is covered by a simple barrel vault.

Portal porch

Main portal

In the floor plan of the two-storey porch built in front of the nave facade in the second implementation campaign from 1130, the position and the great width of the buttresses of the facade are taken over and extended to the west by a yoke. As a result, the three-aisled nave of the porch is also adopted. The inner width and depth of the front nave are identical to the width of the nave central nave, the widths of the side aisles are slightly smaller than those of the nave. Correspondingly, the surfaces of the lateral outer walls step back a good bit compared to those of the nave.

The three-aisled structure of the porch is evident from the staggering of the roofs. The central nave is covered by a gable roof with about the same ridge height as the nave. Since its slopes are a little steeper, its eaves are slightly below those of the nave. The pent roofs over the side aisles of the porch are so high that the upper arenas have almost completely disappeared and only small offsets remain between the gable eaves and pent roof ridges. The pent roof eaves of the porch are well above those of the nave. As a result, the former gable wall sections in the area of ​​the nave aisles had to be bricked up over the surface of the pent roofs of the porch and covered with slightly cantilevered panels. The tile roofing and eaves design correspond to those of the nave.

Portal porch, southern arcade

A group of four slender, round-arched blind arcades are embedded on both side walls of the porch on the upper floor, the arches of which are approximately at the level of the eaves of the nave aisles. In the second arcade niche, from the facade, a somewhat smaller round arched window opening is left out. In the lateral outer walls and in the partition walls of the porch on the ground floor, identical large, round-arched arcades are recessed, the arches of which are marked with transom profiles. All arcade arches and pillars are 96 centimeters wide.

The central nave of the porch is covered with a groin vault, the side aisles with barrel vaults, which are aligned in the transverse direction of the church. The vaults are smoothly plastered and lightly tinted.

The central round-arched, slightly stilted opening of the main portal, into the central nave of the nave, is probably the same one that opened up the first section of the church's extension. The large wooden main portal is horizontally divided into a rectangular double-winged door and a closed arched field, which is decorated with a grid-like structure. The portal wings are hung from the side frames with artistically forged straps. The portal opening and its deep and sharp-edged reveals are surrounded by a simple right-angled offset of the surface of the former facade wall. The portal opening is covered by two wedge arches that are separated from one another by the offset. The inner wedge arch is slightly widened on the outside with red stones. The widening also corrects that the arches are not arranged concentrically with one another. The staggered arrangement of the wedge arches continues at their lower ends in narrow strips of the facade wall and in equally wide, recessed wall strips. The change between arches and vertical wall edges is marked by red striker plates.

The window openings in the former facade wall at the head ends of the aisles of the nave were bricked up in the course of the porch. Parapets were built up between the pillars on which small blind arcades stand. They consist of wedge arches on pillars, which are equipped with simple capitals, profiled fighters and bases.

Portal porch, facade by W
Head wall of the south aisle
Portal front and facade, SW corner

The strict and profound structure of the façade towers over the roof surfaces of the porch and has roughly the same contour on the top. Their slightly differently inclined gable walkways are covered with slightly cantilevered panels. The facade wall consists of an inner 96 cm thick wall that rises on the cores of the four pillars of the ground floor, which are cross-shaped in cross-section and in which their actual window and arcade openings are cut out. You can also see thick wall templates that are an extension of the four side and inner walls of the porch. They reach up to a little over the eaves of the side aisles of the porch and are beveled on the top. and are framed by protruding transom profiles. These wall templates delimit three large blind arcade niches on each of the two floors. The blind arcades on the ground floor are covered by semicircular, sharp-edged wedge stone arches, the beginnings of which are at the same height as one another without a spider, and their apexes are accordingly at different heights. The bases of the niches on the upper floor run horizontally, the middle a short distance above the apex below, the outer ones slightly lower. The arch approaches of the blind arcades on the upper floor stand uniformly high on the wall pillar ends and are each marked by a transom profile. This profile runs across its entire width in the central niche and around the side wall pillars at the corners of the porch. Above this height, the wall surfaces of the upper gable area recede by about half a meter to about half of the wall templates, and accordingly the depth of the three arcade niches in the arch area. The gable triangle is closed at its outer ends by a horizontal profile that corresponds to the aforementioned. The upper area of ​​the gable wall, which protrudes over the roof surfaces, is about 50 centimeters thick. The inner 96 cm thick wall behind it ends a little lower on the top, above the central nave under its roof areas and above the side aisles a short distance above their roof areas.

The central blind arcade on the ground floor surrounds an arcade opening in the center, which in terms of dimensions and including its struts is the same as those on the sides of the porch. The two blind arcades that flank them contain very slender and significantly lower arcade openings that are clearly offset to the outside. The large blind arcades, which are much higher than those on the ground floor, contain small round-arched blind arcades in which slightly smaller round-arched windows are left out. The parapet heights of the lower windows are marked in each blind arcade niche with a strong cantilever profile with a simple roller frieze over the entire niche width. In the middle niche, a twin blind arcade rests on this profile, the sharp-edged wedge arches of which are set back on pillars equipped with simple capitals, spars and profiled bases. In the upper arch field of the middle arcade niche, on the cantilever profile described above, there is a sharp-edged blind arcade in which a slightly smaller window opening is cut out. The window is a little bigger than the one below. Its Keilsteinbogen is surrounded by a simple cantilever profile that swings horizontally at the arches and is guided up to the edges of the niches. In the outer arcade niches, the smallest windows of the gable wall stand on the above-mentioned cantilever profile with a roller frieze. They again have sharp-edged reveals and slightly smaller window openings.

In the gable ridge, a stone cross is set flush with the gable surface, about half of which protrudes over the ridge. It consists of a rectangular plate in which right-angled niches are set in the corners with a little distance from the edge, between which a slim cross remains.

Choir head with transept and bell tower from SO

Transept with crossing tower

The lower area of ​​the transept about up to the level of the side aisles has been preserved in the walls and pillar cores from the original structure from before 1082. Before the end of the third implementation campaign, towards the end of the 12th century, the gable walls of the nave facing the crossing and the new choir head towered over the roofs of the transept. However, numerous renovations have made it more difficult to date it more precisely.

On the ground floor, the transept with its gable walls only slightly extends beyond the width of the nave. Above the aisle roofs, the meaning of the name transept is clearly recognizable, the west and east walls of which protrude considerably above the aisles. The eaves of the transept take on the height and shape of those of the nave. The same applies to the inclination and type of roof covering. The gable walls of the transept arms protrude over the adjoining gable roofs by a good meter and their sloping tops, which are covered with slabs, take over their inclination. At the gable ridge, the same stone slab with a Latin cross is embedded in the wall as can be found on the gable ridge of the portal porch. The gable walls protrude laterally over the eaves in the upper area and cover them. However, these templates end just below the eaves with bevels that are once stepped. From the surfaces of the gable walls a strong buttress protrudes at each wall end, which reaches up about two thirds of the wall height, the upper third of which are steeply sloping twice and stepped back.

About halfway up the wall are the arches of a slender, round-arched window, the wedge-shaped arch of which is enclosed by a cantilevered profile with a roller frieze, which swings horizontally at the height of the arches and extends up to the buttresses. In the middle of the upper half of the wall there is a circular " ox eye ", also called an oculus . In a larger Keilstein circle, a smaller one is set back and encircles the window opening. The outer wedge circle is surrounded by a ring made of a cantilever profile with a simple roller frieze. This window was made in the course of the extensive restoration of the gable walls of the transept around the middle of the 19th century. In the east walls of the two arms of the transept there is a small arched window at the level of the upper cladding window.

The smoothly closed base of the almost square bell tower protrudes above the crossing from the roof surfaces of the central nave, the transept arms and the choir bay a good bit above the roof. It is closed on the top by a protruding cantilever profile with sloping tops.

The outer wall surfaces of the following two storeys step back from those of the base, so far that the semicircular and three-quarter-round pillars facing them could be set up on the corners and in the axes of the tower. The lower floor is a little lower than the upper one. They are separated by a wide cantilever profile with a fluted lower visible edge. This profile is led around all the pillars, which are equipped with capitals and spars above the eaves and with profiled bases above the plinth.

On the lower floor, a round-arched twin arcade is set in between the pillars, the sharp-edged arches of which stand together on a pillar with a carved capital and profiled fighters and bases. The outer arches merge into the reveals without interruption. On the upper floor, the twin arcade motif is repeated in the two halves of the tower, but slightly indented inwards and with narrower, round-arched sound openings with horizontal sound lamellas, the arches of which again stand together on the same pillar, but on the outside on transom profiles above sharp-edged reveals.

The west side of the tower is excluded from this architectural ornament for reasons that are not clear. The argument that this was done to prevent the ingress of driving rain is not valid, because both floors to the west could have been equipped with closed blind arcades. The floor-dividing cantilever profiles are completely led around the tower. There is a small rectangular opening just below the eaves on the west side.

Today the tower is covered by a gently sloping gable roof, the ridge of which runs in the direction of the church axis. Accordingly, there are eaves only on the east and south sides. The roof is covered with red tiles, like the rest of the building, which protrudes slightly on the eaves. They lie on strong cornice panels, the lower visible edges of which are fluted. The cornice is also carried around on the other two sides. There are brick gable triangles above this. The cornice slabs rest on the pillars mentioned above and in between on former planed chipboard bricks, the delicate chip structures of which have been weathered and of which only the solid core parts have been preserved. These eaves designs on all sides are reminiscent of the original 17 meter high stone spire with real eaves on all sides from the 13th century, which was torn down in 1794.

A sacristy on a rectangular floor plan was added to the southern arm of the transept in the 19th century. It replaced an older one from the beginning of the 18th century, which was added halfway to the east and included the connecting wing. Their smoothly closed side walls are an extension of the buttresses, on the inside flush with the inner edges of the pillars. It is covered with a gently sloping gable roof, the inclination and roofing of which corresponds to that of the transept. The eaves design is similar to that of the nave, but instead of noble planed chipboard bricks, clumsy corbels were used. The sloping upper sides of the southern gable wall protrude slightly over the roof surfaces at the same inclination and are covered by panels flush with the surface, at the lower ends of which projecting transom profiles are formed. The ridge of this wall is adorned with a structure consisting of a short stump of an octagonal column on a square base, which is covered by an octagonal plate that protrudes on all sides, over which an equally large, flat, octagonal truncated pyramid is formed. The vertical ends of the gable wall completely cover the eaves overhang. The lower visible edge of the eaves cornice, designed as a wide and grooved bevel, merges into a slightly protruding, equally shaped transom profile on the ends of the gable wall. This profile also marks a brief setback of the wall ends. In the middle of the gable wall, two slender, round-arched windows are cut out, the wedge-shaped arches of which are surrounded by cantilever profiles, the lower visible edge of which is broken as a chamfered bevel. The profile bends horizontally outwards a short distance at the level of the arches.

On the eastern half of the gable wall of the northern arm of the transept, a stair tower with a square cross-section of almost 2 × 2 meters was also raised in the 19th century. The spiral staircase located in it ends at the level of the eaves of the transept arm, the eaves cornice panels of which have been extended to form a catwalk that leads to the bell tower. The stair tower, which protrudes a little over the transept gable, is covered by a stone helmet in the form of a pyramid, smooth on all sides, the ridge of which is crowned by a stone mushroom-like pommel. Its eaves are decorated with a simple scroll frieze. There is another outlet above the patio. Access is from inside the transept arm.

Choir head from the south with connecting section

Choir head

The choir head was erected in the third phase between 1150 and 1200.

Choir head with chapel wreath from SO

When you first look at this section, it is noticeable that the actual choir head is not attached directly to the east wall of the transept, but with its western "gable walls" is a good two meters away. A “connecting wing” is inserted into this space with an external elevation that almost corresponds to that of the nave. However, the roof areas are a bit lower than there. The roof shapes, roofing and eaves design are identical to those of the nave. The upper aisle walls are smoothly closed, as is the northern wall of the "aisle". In the southern wall, just next to the corner of the transept, the single-leaf door of a side entrance is cut out with a strange lintel. It has a silhouette like a combination of a round arch, on the outside, with a horizontal middle section. The horizontal lintel consists of a long monolith that is flush with the surface and rests on the side of the walls. Its lower visible edge is broken with a bevel in the opening area.

This connecting section was probably only added at the end of the third implementation section towards the end of the 12th century, and perhaps not until the fourth implementation section at the beginning of the 13th century.

Choir head, detail of the rosette on the gable ridge

The connecting tract is clearly separated from the actual choir head by a gable wall protruding far above the roofs of the choir and its surrounding area, which protrudes as a pillar on the outer walls. It stands on belt arches between the choir yoke and choir apse and above the gallery. Their sloping tops are covered with stone slabs that hardly protrude. On the gable ridge rises a pillar with a rectangular cross-section that tapers upwards at the side and appears to spear a four-petalled stone rosette with lanceolate “petals”. They meet at the center of a ring.

Choir head, detail, eaves, choir, gallery and chapels

The choir adjoins the middle section of the gable wall, on a plan of a narrow rectangular choir bay, to which the semicircular choir apse adjoins. It is covered by a gently sloping gable roof that merges into a half-conical roof. Roof covering, inclination and verge formation correspond to those of the nave. A total of four buttresses with a rectangular cross-section divide the apse rounding into three sections, each of which is adjoined by a short straight wall section of the choir bay. The pillars protrude under the eaves and are steeply sloping on the top. The width of the wall fields of the choir bay are completely filled with slender, round-arched twin blind arcades, the sharp-edged arches of which stand together on a column with a simply carved capital and a profiled fighter. The niche bases are exactly at the level of the pent roof ridge of the ambulatory. In each of the three sections of the apse wall a round arched window is cut out, only about half of which looks out over the coping ridge. The roof surface in front of the window is deepened down to the parapet. The middle window is aligned with the axis of the field, the two outer windows are shifted towards the choir yoke. The wedge stone arches of the aforementioned windows are enclosed by a powerfully projecting cantilever profile, the lower visible edge of which is wide bevelled and grooved. The profile swings horizontally at the level of the arches and is led around the apse curve over two buttresses.

Choir head, detail of the southern choir wall

The flat, sloping monopitch roof of the ambulatory, together with its eaves, the design of which is similar to that of the choir, encloses the choir bay and the choir apse without interruption. The walls of the gallery are visible between the radial chapels in three short sections and between its eaves and the chapel roofs in narrow, conical strips. Centered in the upper half of each wall section is a larger round arched window with sharp-edged reveals. Its wedge stones are enclosed by the cantilever profile known from the choir windows, which only swings horizontally for a short time at the level of the arches.

The four wreath chapels emerge on semicircular floor plans from the wall, the two outer ones face north and south and the other two face north-east and south-east. Half of the conical roofs with their roofs remain just below the eaves of the gallery. The roofing and eaves design correspond to those of the choir. The curves of the chapel walls are divided into three equally wide sections by slim buttresses with a rectangular plan. In the corners between the chapel apses and the wall are pillar remains with half cross-section. In the sections of the apse walls, a round-arched, somewhat lower window with sharp-edged reveals is cut out, the parapet of which lies on that of the gallery windows. The pillars are framed at the level of the arches of the windows with a cantilevered profile, the lower visible edge of which is broken by a beveled bevel. A similar profile surrounds the wedge arches of the windows and ends at the level of the arches.


Central nave from yoke 1

In contrast to the warm tint of the outer granite parts of the building, the inner stone-visible component surfaces are also made of granite, but predominantly in medium gray tones, which are occasionally tinted in areas by the sunlight penetrating through the stained glass windows. The masonry joints made of light-colored joint mortar set themselves apart from the darker stone surfaces and are slightly raised. However, such bulky joints are not authentic and often come from "renovations" from the 19th century. In the case of current renovations in accordance with monument preservation criteria, such joints are replaced by almost flush with the surface at great expense (example: Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand )

The plastered vaulted surfaces and the wall surfaces of the chapels are light and lightly tinted beige.

Longhouse and portal porch

St-Etienne de Vignory, elevation
St-Etienne de Vignory, longitudinal section
Central nave, north wall, false gallery and vault

The interior of the nave is described in sources as “the most original, if not the most beautiful part of the church” . Its central nave with a good 4.30 meters is relatively narrow, on the other hand its height under the crown of the vault is quite considerable at 12.60 meters, which is more than three times its width.

The nave stands on a rectangular floor plan that is one and a half times as long as it is wide. The length of this is divided into four bays that are almost equally wide, and the width is divided into three naves, the middle one being 1.7 times as wide as the outer one. Its elevation corresponds to the pure type of a basilica, the naves of which are staggered so far that they allow the installation of ceilings windows that directly illuminate the central nave.

What is unusual, however, is the pretense of grandstand floors in the side aisles, seen from the central nave (see elevation). These pseudo galleries, which pose many puzzles to art historians, are possibly archaic elements that have hardly been preserved anywhere. It still exists in the Romanesque pillar basilica of St-Étienne de Vignory in the distant Champagne-Ardenne region , in the Haute-Marne department , and dates from the first half of the 11th century, when no stone vaults were known on the ships at that time (Sh. Drawings by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc from 1856). One cannot assume, however, that the false galleries of Châtel are a kind of predecessor of the real galleries above the side aisles, as the latter already existed towards the end of the 11th century, for example in the church of St-Étienne de Nevers . Both of the above-mentioned churches, as well as that of Châtel , were on the pilgrimage route to Santiago, on which the idea of ​​the grandstand floors or that of false galleries could quickly spread.

Gallery interior

Central nave, south wall, yokes 2-4

The three-story elevation of the central nave is of Burgundian origin, such as Cluny II or Sacré-Cœur de Paray-le-Monial . The arcades on the ground floor open in each yoke onto the side aisles under sharp-edged round arches that are stilted up around two layers of walls. The reveals of the arcade arches show wedge stones of different depths at the edges, the space between them being plastered with mortar. The wedge stone arches stand on three-quarter-round old services, which are equipped with carved capitals, profiled striker plates and profiled bases with rectangular plinths. They are just as wide on the outside as the yokes between the pillar cores, which are square in cross-section, by which they are separated from one another. The almost triangular areas between the outside of the wedge arches and the pier cores are filled with masonry flush with the surface.

Central nave, south wall, false gallery and upper balcony

A special feature is that the partition walls between the ships are 82 to 85 centimeters, slightly thinner than the pillar cores with 99 to 103 centimeters. This allows the surfaces of the partition walls to recede by around 7 centimeters compared to the pillar cores and this up to the height of the transom plates under the belt arches of the central nave vault. So you get the impression that the pier cores continue almost to the vault.

The middle zone of the elevation begins at the level of the upper apex of the Keilstein arches, the arcades of the false galleries, which are reminiscent of triforias . In each yoke of the partition walls there are round-arched, sharp-edged triple arcades that fit exactly between the pillar cores and are separated from each other by slender masonry pillars at the depth of the wall. Their arches are marked in the reveal depth by projecting transom profiles, the lower visible edges of which are broken by wide bevels. As with the large arcades, the soffits of the arcade arches are plastered with mortar between the wedge stones. This zone is closed between the yoke-dividing pillars directly on the outer apex of the wedge arches by a strong cantilever profile with a simple roller frieze.

Immediately above this begins the third elevation zone, the upper cladding area, which reaches up just above the vaults. In the middle of each yoke a round arched, sharp-edged upper cladding window has been cut out, the inside of the same size as the arcades of the false gallery, but without a transom. It has a parapet that slopes steeply inwards. The window is flanked by two somewhat slimmer blind arcades. The fact that their arch approaches are at the same height as that of the window, their vertex height is a little lower. The wedge-shaped arches of the blind arcades and the window stand together on slender pillars. The outer vertical reveals of the blind arcades indent a little towards the middle, their niche backgrounds are smoothly plastered.

South aisle from Yoke 1

On the sides of the pillar cores facing the naves, three-quarter round services are shown, which differ from the services in the large arcades in the partition walls only in their height. Those on the central nave side extend with their striker plates up to the approaches of the belt arches, roughly in the middle of the upper line zone. The slightly stilted belt arches of the central nave are not always concentric with the curve of the barrel vaults they carry. Their wedge arches are significantly slimmer than the pier cores and their upward extension. They are surrounded by a second wedge layer, which seems to be sunk to different depths in the plastered vault surface and thus compensates for the aforementioned discrepancy.

The services on the pillars facing the side aisles are slightly higher than those under the large arcade arches of the partition walls. Their counterparts in the same dimensions are attached to the outer wall without wall pillars. They carry the yoke-dividing walls on wedge-shaped arches with sharp reveal edges. On the outer wall, at the level of the capitals, the quarter-circle roundings of the half barrel vaults begin, which abut the dividing walls just above the height of the apex of the false gallery arcades. Like those of the central nave, these vaults are smoothly plastered.

Central nave to the west

The wall of the former facade of the nave was almost completely opened in the course of the construction of the two-storey porch in the area of ​​the central nave, above the ground floor, opposite the elevation of the nave. The large wall opening is laterally made by right-angled wall pillars and at the top by a belt arch, which corresponds to those of the central nave. The transition from the wall pillar to the arch is marked by transom profiles. The opening is limited at the bottom by a closed section of wall that covers the vault under the gallery. Its upper edge is about one meter above the apex of the portal opening. Immediately on this section of the wall, the gallery is separated from the ship by a wooden railing. By adopting the upper silhouette of the central nave in the porch, the upper floor looks like an extension of the central nave. A round arched arcade opens in each of the partitions of the porch. The gallery is lit directly through a group of three arched windows in its west wall. Just above two smaller windows, which are separated by a slender pillar, stands a slightly larger window in the center. The window walls are widened inwards. In the late afternoon, the intense light of the setting sun penetrates deep into the entire central nave through this group of windows and immerses it in a golden color. This grazing light particularly enhances the plasticity of the longitudinal walls of the ship. On the first floor of the former facade wall, the contours of the opening of the main portal match the outer ones. The original contours of the walled-up windows can still be seen on the western head walls of the aisles. A stone staircase was installed in yoke one of the south aisle, which still opens up the mezzanine floor of the porch.

Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, crossing from the nave

The nave ends in the east with the fourth yoke and meets the western transept wall there. The central nave opens up the crossing with a particularly slender, multi-tiered arcade opening, which is laterally limited by the transept wall ends protruding on both sides opposite the partition walls. The wide reveals of this opening have strong setbacks on both sides with almost square cross-sections. The last, but much slimmer belt arch of the barrel vault is located on the setbacks facing the ship. Its arches, which are slightly offset to the outside, are marked by transom profiles protruding from the inside. On the middle soffit section, resembling a wall pillar, there is a Keilstein pointed arch with a crossing wall rising above it, immediately behind the aforementioned belt arch. The pointed arch stays well below the belt arch. Its beginnings are marked by three-sided cantilever profiles that are only slightly above the cantilever profile with roller frieze of the side walls. On the setbacks pointing to the crossing there is another pointed arch, the edges of which run parallel to the previous pointed arch, at the distance of the setback depth, and have the same crossbones.

In the transept walls that border the side aisles to the east, arcade openings are recessed, in roughly the same dimensions as in the arcades dividing the yoke. Instead of the services, sharp-edged wall pillars support the wedge-shaped arches, the approaches of which are marked with cantilever profiles.

Transept with crossing

Vault, southern transept arm
Crossing dome

The lower part of the transept is one of the oldest surviving parts of the original structure. The upper areas date largely from the beginning of the 13th century (pointed arches) and their renovations from the 19th century. The transept arms are vaulted almost at the height of the central nave vault by transverse barrels, that of the southern arm is slightly pointed. In the gable walls of the transept arms there are two centered windows, a slender arched window in the middle and a circular oculus ("ox eye") in the middle of the upper half of the wall . In the north arm of the transept, near the east wall, there is a door into the external stair tower to the bell chamber, in the middle of the south arm of the transept there is a door into the attached sacristy. In the east walls of the transept arms, a slender, arched window is cut out a little deeper than the oculi .

The crossing is enclosed by arcades, the dimensions and shape of which largely correspond to the arcade to the central nave. The shapes of the arches are all ogival with simple gradations on both sides. The protruding wall pillars on the reveals of the triumphal arch to the choir only begin about halfway up the pillar, where they stand on strong, profiled cantilever consoles. The almost square crossing is vaulted by a classic trumpet dome . In the corners of the square of the crossing, triangular trumpets have been inserted in the plan, resulting in an upper octagonal outline. Their wedge arches in the form of half hollow cones lead from the corners of the crossing squares into the shorter octagon sides. On top of the octagon rises a piece of octagonal drum, the vertical sides of which then gradually merge into the curve of the dome without any caesura.

Choir head

Choir from crossing

The transept opens up three times into the ambulatory choir, in the middle of the crossing with its eastern pointed arcade, which here represents the triumphal arch into the choir area (see previous section) and laterally from the transept arms with rounded, sharp-edged openings into the outpatient departments with the same outline. These used to be the openings in the two transept chapels of the original building. They are covered by very wide reveals.

South ambulatory, connecting wing

A part of the building, which at first appears strange, adjoins the east wall of the transept, a connecting element between the transept and the actual choir head. But it can be explained by the circumstances at that time in the heyday of the St. James pilgrimage. The builders were instructed not to make the pilgrims' visits at all or only to a small extent and in short periods of time due to their noisy building activities. Therefore, when the third section of the church was extended, the construction of a new large choir head, they maintained the function of the original choir head with three staggered apses in front of the already considerably enlarged church space for as long as possible until the new choir head was largely completed. The actual new choir head with its west wall protruding over the roofs and side walls was therefore moved up a good two meters from the transept. It was only when these parts were almost finished that the openings in the east wall of the transept were temporarily closed, and the old apses were then demolished and the gap between the structures closed in a relatively short period of time.

Choir apse central zone

This connecting tract consists of a narrow yoke that connects directly to the east wall of the transept and has almost the same elevation inside as that of the nave, this also applies to the half-barrel vaults of the aisles. On the opposite side is the above-mentioned west wall of the choir head, of which only two mighty columns can be seen inside the building as an extension of the partition walls, between the choir bay and its aisles, and some belt and arcade arches under the vaults. The two pillars stand exactly on the foundations of the former choir apse. The dividing walls consist in the lower section of the straight remnants of the side walls of the choir apse of the original building. They are separated from the pillars by round-arched arcade openings about one meter wide, the arches of which stand on the pillars and the wall ends. These wall sections, like the pillars, are closed off on the top by strong transom profiles with wide bevelled lower visible edges, at the height of all contenders on the “ground floor” of the choir head. The bevels of the columns are carved with plant tendrils and geometric motifs. Above the fighters, the partition walls protrude in full yoke width and completely closed to under the vaulting, which are marked by the material change between masonry and plastering. Flat wall pillars rise up on the chancel side of the pillars, in front of which semicircular old services are arranged, which are equipped with simply carved capitals, profiled fighters and bases. The fighters protrude at the level of the vaults. On top of them are the ends of a belt arch that is simply stepped on both sides. It supports the gable walls protruding from the roof. Above the side aisles, these walls stand on two side-by-side arches below the vaults. In the outer wall of the south aisle, the doorway to a side entrance is cut out.

Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, north ambulatory

The choir apse stands on a floor plan consisting of a slender rectangle, which is followed by a semicircular surface. The outer walls of the choir apse stand on the short edges of the rectangle as an extension of the partition walls of the choir bay and then on the semicircular outline of the apse, which is surrounded by six equally spaced columns. They separate seven arcade openings with round arched, strongly stilted wedge stone arches and are equipped with carved capitals, profiled angular transom plates and only round profiled bases. Their fighters lie on the same level as the fighters of the Chorjoch. A layer of wall above the apex of the Keilstein arches begins the second floor, with a series of seven blind arcades that stand on a slightly cantilevered narrow layer of wall. The round arched arcade arches stand together on pillars, which are equipped with simply carved capitals, profiled fighters and bases. The middle and outer arcades are opened to the outside in windows, the walls of which are flared inwards. The choir vault, which consists of a short barrel vault, to which a semi-dome calotte connects seamlessly, begins a layer of wall above the outer apex of the wedge arches of the arcades .

Southern gallery and chapel

On the barrel-shaped, plastered vault of the ambulatory, which encloses the entire choir, there are seven stab caps on the inside in the spaces between the pillars . Opposite you can also see more stitch caps in front of the three windows of the outer wall and significantly larger ones in front of the four radial chapels. The transitions between the circumferential vault and the stitch caps are marked by parabolic ridges in the plan. The ends of these ridges meet the struts of the pillars, which together support the gallery vault and the needle caps. On the inside, these are the pillars under the choir apse wall; on the outside, they are the pillars that stand directly next to the edges of the arched openings to the chapels on wall plinths almost one meter high in front of the outer wall sections. These are covered with cantilevered panels, the lower edges of which are wide bevelled. The columns are equipped with capitals carved from plants and profiled fighters. Corresponding to the stilts of the arcade arches of the choir apse, these fighter slabs are bricked up in stone, about the same height. In the outer wall sections of the passageway between the chapels, round-arched window openings are recessed, the walls and parapets of which are widened inward. Your wedge stone arches stand on pillars set back from the vertical edges of the drapery. These are equipped with capitals carved from plants, simple transom plates and profiled bases and stand on protruding cover plates with a bevelled lower edge at the level of the inner parapet edge. The outer wall surface above the wedge arches extends a little further up to under the curves of the stitch caps.

The radial chapels each have a slightly more than semicircular floor plan, which is followed by a narrow rectangle on the circumference. The round-arched, sharp-edged openings in the chapels merge without offset into the plastered surfaces of the walls and domes, which merge with one another without any markings. The stone surfaces are briefly led around the edges of these openings. Your wedge stone arches are covered by the stitch caps on the circumferential side except for a narrow strip. A group of three blind arcades is embedded in the semicircular rounding. Their wedge arches, flush with the wall, rest among each other, on the outside alone on slender pillars, which stand in broad backsets on a cantilevered parapet cover with beveled lower edge that surrounds the curve. The pillars are equipped with carved capitals, sprawling fighter plates, with wide beveled lower visible edges and profiled bases.

Longhouse capital, Olifantenbläser

Capital sculpture

Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne, capital, nave, packhorse
Capital in the nave, pack donkey

There are few sculptures in Notre-Dame de Châtel-Montagne . The hard granite only allowed the stonemasons to work over a large area, which is not lacking in its own accents. There are almost no religious motifs, but only drolleries (French: drôle , drollig / funny / funny), such as the male busts symmetrically protruding from the capital, each blowing on an olifant (bugle), standing behind on the capital sides one more person each, who support the upper arm of the wind instruments with their hand (west side of the first southern pillar), or the two pigeons who try in vain to communicate with a mouthpiece. This also includes the scene with an unruly donkey loaded with a sack and being pulled by the reins by a man while another person has grabbed his tail, known to be a method of getting a donkey to run (east side of the third southern pillar) . Another scene shows a total of four four-legged animals (horses) standing up on their hind legs, each biting its own tail (east side of the third northern capital). You can also see double-tailed sirens and various atlases kneeling on bent legs and carrying loads above them with hands or feet. The style of the sculpture of the capitals on the columns between the choir apse and the ambulatory suggests the late 12th century. They are predominantly decorated with plants, palms, acanthus leaves , flat leaves and pronounced buds, as well as roughly with eagles, lions, horses or elephants (?).


Madonna and Child, 15th century

Out of a whole series of smaller sculptures, a 130 cm statue of the crowned Mother of God with the baby Jesus in her arm, who holds a ball on her knees and raised her right hand in a Latin gesture of blessing , should be highlighted . It was created in the 15th century and is painted in strong colors. After a modern restoration since 2002 it stands in the center of the choir apse between the two central columns.

In the south-eastern radial chapel there is a statue of the patron saint of Châtel-Montagne, Saint Genest , from the 16th century. It has recently been thoroughly restored, whereby the coloring has largely been preserved. The saint received a new palm leaf.

Under the triumphal arch from the crossing to the choir stands a large crucifix from the 15th century on a wooden crossbeam (see photo in the section Interior / Transept with crossing).

Parts of a beautiful choir stalls from the 15th century have also been preserved. This was also attacked by wood-destroying pests in the 19th century. The renovation was difficult in places because the wood had become very fragile.


  • Bernard Craplet: Romanesque Auvergne. Echter Verlag, Würzburg 1992, ISBN 3-429-01463-8 , pp. 242-249.
  • Julia Droste-Hennings, Thorsten Droste : France, the southwest. DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 2007, ISBN 978-3-7701-6618-3 , pp. 23-25.
  • Ulrich Rosenbaum: Auvergne and Massif Central. 4th edition. DuMont Reiseverlag, Ostfildern 1986, ISBN 3-7701-1111-7 , pp. 61–63.

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Commons : Notre-Dame (Châtel-Montagne)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 46 ° 6 ′ 53.2 "  N , 3 ° 40 ′ 57.5"  E