Eglise Notre-Dame

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Antigny is a pleasant small village with a central square on the site of the old cemetery with a double row of poplar trees round the edge. There is a pump and 12thC Death Lantern Post. This is a tall square stone monument with a pointed tower which was typical of west and central France and was used as a funerary beacon. The Marie and post office are on one side. On the other sides are old stone houses and a very closed old garage.

Eglise Notre-Dame is a small, very simple 11thC building with a stumpy spire and 15thC funerary chapel built onto the south wall. The eaves were extended in the 18thC to cover the south porch forming a cocquetoire or balc (cacklehouse) where parishioners gathered for public meetings.

By the side of the west door is a stone slab supported by columns with carved tops which is probably where a coffin was laid before entering the church. The wooden doorway is surrounded by round topped arches and above is a single round topped window.

Steps lead down into the nave. There are two old stone fonts at the back of the church. The nave has small round topped windows. Those in the chancel are later; in the Gothic style. The wall separating nave and chancel has a large central arch with smaller arches on either side. Massive internal buttresses on the wall help support the tower. The nave roof is made up of wooden slats with structural wooden cross beams. There is a crucifix on the south wall and a memorial to the dead of World War One with 26 names and World War Two with just five names.

The tops of the walls round the nave are covered with 14thC frescoes, mainly in shades of yellows and reds. These had been covered with several coats of whitewash with false red joints and had been forgotten until flaking paint revealed traces of frescoes. They have been cleaned and restored. There are two panels of frescoes along the walls. On the south wall is the Last Supper, which extends round the window recess to fit in the twelve apostles, and the arrest of Christ. There are also scenes of the Passion of Christ and the Last Judgement. The lower panels depict scenes of saints including St George killing the dragon and St Christopher carrying the Christ Child.

The chancel ceiling is painted blue and covers older frescoes. The walls are divided into squares by red lines which have a red flower motif in the centre and again may cover more frescoes. The high altar is made of stone with carvings of the Annunciation on the base. There is a wooden altar rail and the remains of wooden choir stalls. Statues on the east end wall include Joan of Arc and the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. The stained glass window in the chancel has pictures of St Savin, St Hilary, St Ragegonde and St Cyprien with two angels above and God the Father and God the Son at the top.

A small wooden doorway leads into the Chapelle Ste-Catherine which was built onto the south wall at the beginning of the 15thC as a family vault for the Lord of Mauléon. This is unusual as the altar has been moved to the west end. The walls and ceilings are covered with frescoes which include the nativity, the murder of the innocents, the Passion of Christ (including scourging, carrying the cross, crucifixion) and the judgement of the dead with the dead rising out of their coffins and scenes with the devil. There is also an illustration of the Three Living and the Three Dead. On the ceiling is God the Father.

This is a delightful small church and a hidden gem ignored by the guide books. The local tourist board is promoting the “Gartempe Valley”: in an attempt to encourage visitors. We were the only ones. Visit before it gets discovered.

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