St Pierre-Eynac, a small village ignored by the guide books, is built half way up the hillside to the east of Le Puy-en-Velay. Above the village is a huge white statue of the Virgin Mary built in 1864.
It is a small settlement of substantial old stone houses and farmhouses and was a friendly welcoming place. There is a big new housing development planned at the west end of the village and work is just beginning. There were people around and everyone wanted to know if we had visited the church. This was locked so we got the massive iron key from the restaurant opposite which had geraniums in window boxes.
There is a large information board outside the church. This is a long low building with no tower but a small four bell bellcote at the west end. At the east end is a lower angular apse with round windows with round pillar supports and a massive central buttress.
It was built on the site of a pre-Romanesque priory. It has a 12thC nave with later additions which include the 19thC chimney on the roof, which is still used by the heating system inside the church. The church had been larger and there are the remains of an old wall at the corner of the west and north walls. It is unusual as the doorway is on the north side of the church. On the north wall are painted Litres Seigneuriales. These were painted on the church in honour of the dead and were usually a band of black painted on the inside or outside of the church. Often they had the coat of arms of the deceased painted on them. They were temporary in nature and few have survived. These have a yellow circle with a crown above outlined in red.
The doorway is set back inside a large porch with a vaulted ceiling. The round pillars on either side of the door have carved capitals and support carved round arches over the doorway. There is a small carving of the Virgin and Child in a small niche above the door.
Steps lead down inside the door into the nave. The centres have been worn down over the ages. Inside it is a hotchpotch of styles. At the west end is a large balcony. This has a later round arch and vaulted ceiling under an older round arch. The small chapel opposite the door has a model of the church as well as a gilt statue of St Peter. In small wall niches are statues of Mary and also Joseph with the young Jesus.
In the north transept is a massive round stone font with with a small face carved on the side. The south transept has a marble altar with a M monogram on the base surrounded by gilt lilies. The host box has the Sacre Coeur on the door. Above is a gilt statue of the Virgin. On the wall opposite the altar is a memorial to the dead of World War One.
The chancel has a vaulted roof. There is a modern mass altar with an elaborate high altar behind it. This is white painted wood with the Sacre Coeur on a blue background with gilt scrolls and decoration. There are more gilt scrolls on the shelves on either side of the host box which has a crucifix on the door and a cloth over it. The retable has gilt scrolls and grapes. The altar cloth has a border of painted flowers. The east end window is modern with a picture of Christ. The windows on either side are modern abstract designs in red, blue, purple and brown glass, adding a bright splash of colour to the church.
The nave has a barrel ceiling and there are statues of St Roch and an unidentified Abbé. On the south wall is a large crucifix. These windows have abstract designs in brown and white glass.
After visiting St-Piere Eynac, we took the road which dropped us back down to the valley bottom through the tiny settlement of Eynac. The valley bottom is surrounded by high basalt cliffs with hexagonal pillars.