Eglise Saint-Martin

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Église St-Martin is in the centre of Laroquebrou, an attractive small market town well off the tourist beat. It is an unusual building with a variety of roof lines. The original building is 13thC. The tower at the west end either collapsed or was demolished during the Revolution. The louvred bell windows are topped by a low pointed roof with a spindly bell cote with a helmet roof on top. It still has the circular tower giving access to the bell chamber. At the east end is another small bell cote with a witches hat style roof.

The outside of the church is heavily buttressed indicating stability may have been an issue. There are huge gargoyles taking water from the nave roof and carved corbel stones below the eaves.

There is a large, modern sundial on the south wall. This doesn’t have a number 7. There are different mystical suggestions for this but a more mundane explanation may be that the sun’s shadow doesn’t hit the dial between 6pm and 8am.

It was a dull day and the church seemed dark inside as the only light in the nave comes from small windows at the top of the nave walls. It was a while for our eyes to adjust to the low light and to begin to see detail. Michael needed to use flash to take pictures and even then, many were disappointing.

There are five side chapels along each side of the church with wooden altars and statues and separated by massive stone walls with a pointed arch above. The ceiling is vaulted and the ends of the ribs are carved. The chancel ceiling is plastered between the ribs giving it a very elegant look.

Inside the west door, steps lead up to a small wooden gallery supported by solid wooden beams. On the wall above is a crucifix.

There is a large wall mounted carved wooden pulpit with carvings of the four evangelists in panels on the base. Above is an elaborately caved canopy in the shape of a spire with pinnacles and a cross at the top.

Both transepts have beautifully carved wooden altars and retables. The south transept has a carving of Christ standing above a church with small praying angels underneath and two figures on either side. These have spires and pinnacles above them. On the left of the altar is a statue of a bishop with a gilt mitre and crook. St Theresa is a small niche to the right. There is a small treasury in a glass case on the south wall containing chalices, ostensoirs and communion plate.

The north transept altar has a gilt statue of the Virgin and Child above the host box with angels on either side. Above are spires and pinnacles with a central cross on the top. There is a painted statue of St Roch and, in a small niche, a small beautiful painted statue of Mary and Joseph carrying the Christ Child on their shoulders.

Steps lead up into the chancel which has an iron altar rail. There is a plain mass altar. The high altar has a decorative base with gilded carvings round the corners and painted cherubs. Above is an urn shaped gilt host box. On either side, three round pillars support winged gilt angels with trumpets. Above is an ornate canopy with hanging drapes and a figure on top which could be either John the Baptist or Christ. The three large stained glass windows behind the altar have pictures of saints. In a small wall niche is a gilt statue of the Virgin Mary.

There is nothing special in the town or church to attract the attention of the guide books. Even the municipal website concentrates on services and information for locals. Tourists rush past and ignore the signs to the town. This is a shame as it is an attractive town with an interesting church. We are glad we visited.

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