Eglise Saint-Roch

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La Vinzelle is a tiny hamlet built on a shelf above the north bank of the River Lot. At the top of the village is the small stone Église St-Roch. This was built in the 11thC and was originally the chapel of a château which was demolished in the 14thC. It is a simple stone building built against the rock face with massive buttresses at the east end. It has a small tower at the west end and above it is a separate bell tower.

Steps lead up up to south door of church. Entry is through an old, wooden, round topped door set in a round arch. Inside the door, stone steps lead up to the gallery and wooden steps lead from this into the tower. A large central stone arch with a carved badge supports the gallery.

There is a carving of St Roch, who is the patron saint of the village. In a niche on the north wall is a small treasury with an ostensoir, small reliquary, communion cup and plate.

The nave is rectangular and has pale green walls with a darker green band at the top and a white ceiling. On the north wall are statues of Curé d’Ars, Joan of Arc and the Virgin and Child. On the south wall are St Antoine de Paduoe, St Theresa and Notre-Dame de Lourdes. There are framed prints of the Stations of the Cross on the walls. There is a marble memorial to the dead of World War One with 20 names which must have been devastating to a village of this size.

A simple ceiling rib separates the nave and chancel. There are small wooden choir stalls and a larger chair for the priest. The free standing high altar is painted to resemble green marble with a silver Lamb of God with a cross and surrounded by gilt scrolls and a sunburst. At the corners are gilt cherub heads. The retable stretches the width of the east wall. There are wooden cupboards below and the top is divided into three parts. Four round pillars painted to resemble dark marble have gilt tops. They support a decorative red and gilt border which runs along the top of the retable. On it are four gilt painted urns with red flames. The centre piece has a cherubim head framed by green and gold scrolls and a cross above.

Between the pillars are panels painted to resemble green and orange marble in green and gilt surrounds. In the centre is a large gilded host box with a carving of a pilgrim on the door and a crucifix above. Above in the central panel is a painting of the crucifixion. Below is a gilt frieze with grapes and birds.

The north panel has a painted statue of St Clair (bishop). The south panel has a gilded statue of Joseph and the young Jesus. Both stand on gilt pedestals in a slight recess with shell shaped roofs above. There are no windows on the north wall. On the south wall are round topped windows with pictures of St Roch and St Clair.

Above the church is a small separate bell tower with a pointed witch’s hat roof. This was specially built to house the massive bell donated by a wealthy parishioner. This was cast in Rodez in 1870 and brought by boat to St Parthem and then pulled up to La Vinzelle by bullock cart. It was too large (and noisy) for the church. There is access to the bell chamber where the bell is supported by massive wood struts.

This is a delightful church in a delightful village. You won't find it in the guide books and there isn't much information on the web. It is a hidden gem and well worth finding.

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