Notre Dame la Grande Church of Poitiers!!

Well this is another masterpiece in wonderful architecturally and historically stunning Poitiers. We are glad to revisit after several years and will be back sooner! For a reminder, Poitiers sits today in the Vienne dept 86 of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of my belle France. I was just there and have several posts forthcoming and this one,is tops, a must to see. Hope you enjoy the post on the Notre Dame la Grande Church of Poitiers!!

The Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church is characteristic of the Poitevin Romanesque style, its sculpted facade is a unanimously recognized masterpiece of religious art from this period.  At the time of Lemonum (Roman Poitiers), the north wall of the church shows the remains of an ancient or pre-Romanesque elevation made up of bricks and stones, with an arch integrated in medieval buildings. Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church is mentioned for the first time in the 10C, under the Latin name of Sancta Maria Major , by then it had a dual status, both parish and collegiate, and depended on the canons of the cathedral. Rebuilt in the 11C, it was consecrated by the future Pope Urban II during his visit to Poitiers in July 1086.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande front oct21

At the beginning of the 12C, the church underwent major works: the bell tower-porch was demolished, two spans were added to lengthen the nave, and the famous facade was completed around 1115-1130. Throughout the 15-16C, various private chapels belonging to the families of the upper bourgeoisie of Poitou are arranged on the north side of the church in Flamboyant Gothic or Renaissance style, The layout of the church consists of a central nave with very high side aisles according to a pattern common in the Romanesque architecture of Poitou. From the inside one has the effect of a hall church on one level of elevation. The barrel vault has a slightly flattened silhouette, while the aisles are covered with a groin vault. An ambulatory with radiating chapels develops around the choir which has preserved some of its wall paintings. A 11C crypt, dug a posteriori under the choir, also preserves period frescoes.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande altar closeup oct21

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande chapel st joseph oct21

The Romanesque portal is partly preserved ,amputated from its floor, one found there before the French revolution, an equestrian statue representing Constantine. This statue was a replica of an older one destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. It is not known whether the identity of the first rider was the same. Behind this statue upstairs is mentioned in the Middle Ages a small chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine. The bell tower dates from the 11C. It was originally much more marked the first level is now hidden by the roofs.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande chapel of king oct21

Only those in the cul-de-four above the choir and the crypt remain of Romanesque frescoes. Above the choir, there is still an infrequent representation of the apocalypse, the Virgin and Child is represented in a mandorla, Christ is in majesty on the vault, between a circle and a square, then the Lamb. Mystique is depicted in a circle. All around, under arches, the 12 apostles are represented seated, as on the facade. In the crypt, the frescoes represent anonymous saints.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande chapel resurrection oct21

The whole of the Notre Dame le Grande Church was restored by Joly-Leterme in 1851. The latter had the columns and vaults repainted with Romano-Byzantine motifs, starting from a principle common among 19C restorers, that of influence of crusades on Romanesque art. Other neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic paintings adorn the chapels. It was also during this painting campaign that we discovered the Roman painted remains. Painted in oil on plaster, they quickly deteriorated. The sculptures of the capitals are sober, made up of stylized foliage called fat leaves. A single capital is historiated: located in the ambulatory on the south side, it represents the Ascension with Christ standing in a mandorla. The choir capitals are inspired by the Corinthian capitals of Roman antiquity. The church was refurnished after the French revolution, and most of it is from elsewhere unfortunately.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande chapel chapter good dying oct21

Added around the second quarter of the 12C, the screen facade of Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church has a silhouette specific to the Poitevin novel. The facade, flat, is much higher than the church, giving the effect of a backdrop. It is structured by superimposed arches and framed by two turrets. The sculpture adorns the facade profusely. There are frequent motifs from Romanesque art: foliage, bestiary, modillions carved with grimacing heads and fantastic figures. A capital represents elephants facing each other. Above the portal, a frieze has biblical scenes. Above the door, one can contemplate a frieze of high reliefs illustrating passages from the Bible. The selected scenes, taken from the Old and New Testaments, tell of the proclamation and the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to save mankind from original sin. It is sometimes called the frieze of the Incarnation. Just above, the arcades house the twelve apostles and two bishops. Local tradition sees Saint-Hilaire and Saint-Martin there. on the right, a bishop recalls the episcopal power of the bishops of Poitiers, barons of Poitou. On the left, the bishop wears the papal attire of the 12C, it is the bishop of Rome, reminder of papal power in a period marked by the Gregorian reform. Traces of polychromy and painted inscriptions have been spotted on the frieze and the figures. They are especially visible to the spectator around the scene of the Annunciation. Difficult to date, they may not be from the Romanesque period, but from the end of the Middle Ages.The inauguration of the restored facade took place in 1995.

Poitiers ch Notre Dame la Grande side back statues oct21

A historical anecdote I like, The Miracle of the keys !  In the year 1202, the English besieged the city of Poitiers. The mayor’s clerk promises to deliver the city to them by providing them with the keys to the city in exchange for a large sum of money, on Easter Day. During the night, the clerk enters the mayor’s room to steal the keys from him, but at the time of seizing them, they had disappeared. When he wakes up, the mayor also realizes the disappearance and, frightened, knows that there has been treason. He therefore warns his army and goes to Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church to pray. There he discovered the statue of the Virgin Mary, keys in hand. During the night, under the ramparts, frightened by the apparitions of the Virgin, Saint Hilaire and Saint Radegonde, the English killed each other and fled. This legend is represented in the church on a 19C stained glass window and on a 17C painting.

The Parish of the Trinity of Poitiers on the Church Notre Dame la Grande

The Poitiers tourist office on the church

The City of Poitiers on its heritage, see video on the church

The Vienne dept 86 tourist office on the church

There you go folks, another dandy from my belle France. A must to see and do come to Poitiers , a wonderland of architecture and historical wonders to have visited and revisited; all worth it. The Notre Dame la Grande Church is an splendid example of this beauty in a neighborhood that is to stay forever! Hope you enjoy the post as I

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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