St Illide built on top of a volcanic intrusion, is a short drive off D922, to the north west of Aurillac. It is a small village with a big Marie and Poste de Telegraphe building. There is plenty of parking in the square which has a war memorial with 76 names from World War One but only nine from World War, a reflection on the waste of life in the trenches.
The church was locked but we got the key from the small general store across the road.
The church is late 11thC and was a chapel linked with the Abbey of St Gerald of Aurillac. There were probably 10-12 monks here with a prior. A small settlement gradually grew up under the shelter of the monks.
During the Revolution, three of the five bells were taken. Statues, altars and crucifixes destroyed (apart from any that could be hidden). The church was restored and extended in the 19thC, when the walls were whitewashed. Two bells added to the bell chamber and the gallery at the west end was added.
The church is a long, low, rather nondescript building from the outside with a small tower above the transept, stone slab roof and side aisles. The square tower with pointed roof is typical of churches before the Revolution.
Entry is through the west door which has a simple round arch above it. At the back of the church is a modern font and a small confessional.
Inside round arches and massive pillars support the ceiling ribs of the barrel roof. The inside is painted white except for a small gold, beige, red and green frieze round the top of the walls. There are statues of St Antoine de Padoue, St Theresa and St Roch on the south wall. Each is standing on a pedestal with cherub heads and flowers beneath. On the north wall are Joan of Arc, St Ann with the young Mary and a crucifix.
The chancel arch has gilt statues of The Virgin and Child on the south side and a pilgrim with a cross on the north. There is a small wooden mass altar with carved pillars supporting arches picked out in gold. There is a carved wood eagle lectern with a large hymn book with music. On the side walls are low choir seats with misericords.
Behind is a splendid high altar with an elaborate retable. The altar is 18th or 19thC and has a bulbous base painted grey with gilt and red decoration and a bishop’s mitre and crook in the centre. The host box is shaped like an urn and has a silver and gold door with angels and cherub heads and a cross on top. Above are garlands of grapes.
In the centre of the retable is a painting of Christ crucified set in a gold and red frame. On either side are barley corn twist pillars with gilt grapes and gilt carved tops. On the outside are statues of St Peter on the left and St Illide on the right. Both have shells behind their heads and stand on pedestals with two cherub heads beneath. Above is a carved gilt and red frieze, with a carving of God the Father above holding an orb on a background of clouds with a sunburst around them.
The side chapels have carved wooden altars with a wooden reredos and old choir stalls with misericords on the side walls.
The south altar has a statue of the Virgin and Child. The altar in the north aisle has a host box with a carved figure of God the Father with an orb on the door. There are statues of St Joseph with the the young Jesus and St Curé d’Ars.
St Illide is another hidden gem which doesn’t get a mention in the guide books and there is very little about it on the web. It is off the tourist beat and gets few visitors. This is a shame as it is a pleasant small village with a nice church.