Southwest France - May 2007

Churches in Southwest France

Photos by Walt & Gloria Fogler-Mancini

In 1189 the pope declared Santiago de Campostella in Spain to be a holy city, equal to Rome and Jerusalem.  As pilgrims traveled there to St. James’ burial place from all over Europe, most routes crossed southwestern France.  The many churches that were built initially reflected the old Roman culture of the area.  Other influences came from the Moors in Spain and from the Byzantine empire when people returned from the crusades. 


The romanesque abbey church of St. Savin is a UNESCO world heritage site because of its mural paintings from the 11th century.  The crypt of St. Savin is under the altar. 

Notre Dame La Grande in Poitiers has been called the supreme example of romanesque architecture in France.  Its Romano-Byzantine style reflects the influence of the crusades in the twelfth century. The inside was repainted in the 19th century.

Église St. Foy was an important stopover for pilgrims in Conques.  It’s twelfth century tympanum of the last judgement is remarkable.  The donations to the treasury from kings and pilgrims helped the abbey maintain its independence and power.

The Cathédral Notre Dame in Le Puy-en-Velay was built on the side of a Roman temple.  The alternating dark and light stones of the arches and the Black Madonna show the influence of Moorish Spain.

The bishop of Le Puy led the first pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostella in 950. The statue is of St. James as a pilgrim.

It is 268 steps to the Chapelle de St. Michel d’Aiguihe in Le Puy. 

Detail from column in Église St. Pierre in Chauvigny.

Cathédral Ste. Marie in Bayonne was built from the 13th century to the 16th century in the Gothic style of northern France.

Bourges’ Cathédral St. Etienne used Gothic ideas from the north.  It’s stained glass windows are among the finest in France (UNESCO).


All photos were taken with Leica digital cameras:  the M8, R9 and D-Lux 2.  All images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission.  If you have questions about pictures or are interested in a reproduction of a photo, please contact us at

April 2008                                                                                                                                                                                                        wgfm

To go to our home page, click here...