St Martin de Cantalès is a small hamlet of scattered houses around the church and no services apart from the Marie. It doesn’t even get a mention on the web…
The church is surrounded by a grassy enclosure next to a farm. It has a square tower above the transept, with louvred bell windows and a witches hat spire. There is a small round apse at east end with a round topped window with round pillars at the sides and a carved arch above. Carved stone slabs support the eaves of the chancel. There is a large wooden shelter over the west door.
The windows of the church are covered with fibre glass on the outside which makes it look shut and unused. We nearly didn’t bothered to see if it was open.
The doorway has two round pillars with carved capitals and a frieze supporting round wall arches. These have a carved chequerboard pattern. There is a panther head at the top of the arch and a cat’s head at the base. The top of the left pillar has a carving of a shepherd holding a crook. The others have foliage designs.
The door was open and there is a wooden railing across to stop animals entering the church.
Inside the doorway is a small stoup and a memorial to the dead of World War One with 22 names; a lot for such a small settlement. At the back of the church are old benches with arms and head rests.
The stone nave with arches into the side chapels, has a low wooden beam ceiling with a carved frieze below. The stained glass windows have images of saints. There are small framed carvings of the Stations of the Cross on the walls of the nave. On the north wall is a crucifix and a statue of St Agnes. On the south wall are statues of the Virgin and St Curé d’Ars. There is a framed icon of the Virgin and Child on the back wall.
The round chancel arch has a statue of St Martin on the north side and St Julien on the south. There are two very ornate side chapels. Each has an altar with a bulbous base painted to resemble marble. The retable above the north altar has a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the body of the crucified Christ in a niche with carved gilt drapes above and gilt garlands on the sides. The south altar has carvings of St Agnes (left) and St Roch (right) supported by cherubim heads. Between them is a painting of a bishop.
The chancel is narrower than the nave. The round chancel arch sits on carved bases. Beneath it is an elaborate mass altar with gilt scrolls, silver candlesticks and a crucifix. Beyond is a round apse with the high altar which has a huge three part gilt host box with barleycorn twist pillars at the corners. The central door has a cup, the south door a statue of a bishop and the north door (hidden by a vase of flowers) is an empty arch. Above is a crucifix. On the end wall is a round topped window with a picture of Christ, the Saviour of the World.
This is well off the tourist beat and sees few visitor. It is off D922 to the west of Salers, in a rural area of small settlements and narrow winding roads. There is nothing to attract the visitor, which is one of the attractions…. We enjoyed our visit and found it well worth while.