Abbatiale Saint-Pierre

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Abbatiale Saint-Pierre is all that is left of the 9thC monastery founded in Blesle which was dispersed in the Revolution.

It is a long low building of plaster and stone, surrounded by rather scruffy housing. There is little left of the earlier building and most of the nave and chancel is 12thC. It has a massive south door with a series of round arches with carved flowers, which leads into the south transept. Above is a small bell cote. The tower was demolished in the Revolution. The large round apse at the east end has smaller apses off. These have carved heads on stone corbels under the eaves.

A flight of steps leads down into the church. Just inside the south door is a large painting of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. The nave is narrow and dwarfed by the massive chancel. Wooden steps inside the doorway give access to the organ above the west door. Directly opposite the south door is the small Chapelle du Rosaire on the north wall. This has a stone table altar and an old painted carving of Jesus on the cross, now minus arms and cross. Next to it is the smaller Chapelle St-Catherine with a metal door and a host box on the floor with a pelican on the door, plucking her breast to feed the babies below. There is a statue of Mary and Child above and a carving of Mary holding the dead body of Christ on a wall plinth. There is also the processional cross with a crucifix on the front.

There is the remains of an early pilgrim fresco on north wall and by the chancel arch, another carved marble altar with gilt inlay and a black and red design. It has a carving of Joseph and the young Jesus on the base. There is a wooden statue of Joseph and Jesus on top of the host box. The stained glass window above has a picture of the Holy Family and is set in a blue painted wall.

The massive chancel arch has a decorative border with small blue crosses. The underside of the arch has a regular geometric design with black lines forming a diamond pattern with green and brown infill. Below is a has a wooden free standing mass altar with big candlesticks beneath. The decoration in the chancel and south apse are 19thC.

Steps lead up to the altar rail in front of the high altar. This has a bulbous base with crossed keys in a red roundel on the front with decorative marble panels on either side. There is a low, stepped retable with host box with a metal door and crucifix on top underneath a pillared canopy. Round the back walls of the apse are carved choir stalls. The walls and ceiling are a blaze of colour. The round wall pillars are painted green with carved tops picked out in gilt. The walls are beige with red lines. Beige and red designs round the windows which have round green arches. The frieze round the base of the ceiling has a design of pillars and round arches with badges on a red background. The blue ceiling has beige and blue designs and a roundel of Jesus blessing a kneeling figure. A niche protected by a glass door houses a reliquary box with cherub heads on the top which contains the bones of ‘National Saints’. Above the altar is a stained glass widow of God the Father. The windows on either side have geometric flower designs.

South chancel chapel has bulbous marble altar with two gilt hearts in a red circle. The gilt host box has the Lamb of God on the door and a gilt statue above of Christ holding the Sacre Coeur. In front is a decorative iron altar rail. The pillars supporting the arch are painted royal blue and have a gilt flower motif. The chancel arch has a geometric design in red, brown and beige. The walls above are pale grey with bunches of flowers painted on them. The walls outside the south chancel have the remains of old frescoes on them.

 The base of the apse is painted ochre. There is a narrow aqua band with brown spots. Above are wall pillars painted in either blue and red or red and brown with aqua and blue or red decoration on the capitals. These support round arches with a red, yellow and blue twisted pattern on them. Above is a decorative frieze with hexagons with a blue cross. The ceiling is royal blue with stars and a roundel of a young woman praying. The stained glass window has a picture of Jesus appearing to Mary. On the Remains of old frescoes on side wall.

On the south wall next to this is a smaller chapel. The walls outside the arch are painted re and there are red crosses in round cornered squares under the arch. There is a decorative iron altar rail. The altar has a monogram M on the and statue of the Virgin and Child on the host box. The base of the walls are painted ochre and have a narrow aqua band at the top spotted with brown. The windows have blue and red or red and yellow pillars with a brown cross hatch pattern between them. Above the altar is a stained glass window of the Virgin. Windows on either side have a flower design. The ceiling is painted bright blue with yellow spots. There are roundels with a picture of God and two pictures of the Virgin.

An interesting church in a scruffy and rather run down town. This is only worth searching out if you are in the area.

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