May. 18th, 2012

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Hoorah.  The photographs have worked... 

My apologies for the quality of the images in this one.  It wasn't one of my successful ventures in the photography of standing buildings.  My camera was running low on juice and was grumpy as a result, and photographing churches which fall into this particular architectural style isn't always that easy...

The church of Saint Vincent in La Bastide de Saint Louis was a really tricky building to get into.  A plaque on the north door states quite clearly that it's an ancient monument, but whenever we went past it remained stubbornly shut.  I later questioned my hosts at the hotel, and the impression I got from them was that the building remained closed most of the time because it's in an unsafe condition.

But, because we'd visited over the Easter Weekend, it turned out that the church was open in order to fulfil that function for which it had been initially created - mass was being celebrated there.  Which meant of course that the building had to be prepared for the occasion, and it was possible to explore the place during that short period.

It did not disappoint, though the photos don't really do it justice.  Here's a view down the nave towards the choir, which is apsidal, just like the choir in the Cathedral of Saint Michael:-



I've tinkered with this photo to try and improve it, but it didn't really help much.  The figures at the left hand side do, however, give some impression of the vast scale of the place.

The interior was heavily decorated, with circular windows at a high level.  I keep wanting to call these 'rose windows' but I'm not sure if these really constitute proper 'rose windows' per se:-




A view of the south wall now, with its arched recesses, each containing individual chapels.  The capitals supporting the pillars are all decorated, with seems at odds with the otherwise austere interior:-





And the above photograph also gives a better impression of that really solid vaulting...

The west end has been modified to take an organ.  Once again, there's evidence of an internal stair (the window on the left) which must access the smaller of the two towers at the west end. What was sadly evident at this end, and which is almost visible in this photograph - look hard!!- is the unhappy condition of the fabric.  The vaulting is clearly suffering as a result of dampness, and there was a big crack in the masonry evident, too.  The complicated arrangement of the towers and gable must be taking its toll on this poor structure, and let's face, it's a pretty major problem which will be very expensive to fix.  Add to that the fact that there are three very substantial medieval church buildings (similar in size and character to this one) in La Bastide de Saint Louis alone, then the body responsible for the management and preservation of the building is facing a very major headache and a problem which certainly can't be resolved in the present economic climate....




Perhaps it's on account of the dodgy fabric that the area behind the organ is out of bounds to visitors.  There's a gate marked 'interdite' but since it was wide open when we visited and I didn't see any reason why the place should be closed off, I went snooping.

And I found this delightful little chapel, or something, complete with a lovely font.  We got rounded up and chased out soon enough, but not before I took a photograph:-




Now, I'd guess this Classically-inspired space with its Corinthian columns and coffered ceiling dates to the 17th century or thereabouts.  Or at least it would be, if it was in a Scottish context.  But here?  It's anybody's guess.  I think the organ might have been late 16th century or thereabouts, so this Classical 'temple' might be contemporary.  Unfortunately, there was only a laminated plan in French and I wasn't able to take any paperwork home with me, so I cannot eludicate this little mystery further.

But I'm so glad I managed to get inside.  And that I managed to take a wrong turn.  Who knows?  Next time I get to Carcassone, it might not be possible to get inside the building at all....

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