Eglise Saint-Saturnin

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St-Cernin is a small, pretty village built of dark volcanic stone just off the D922. It is well cared for with hanging baskets of bright red geraniums on the lamp posts. It has a good range of shops and was busy with locals going about their business.

Eglise St-Saturnin has a massive cloche peigne at the west end with four bells. In 1865 a school was built onto the west end of building. There is a massive and possibly fortified porch over the south door with pillars with carved capitals, carved round arches and a semi-circular window above. At the east end is a small sacristy.

The south door and choir are 12thC. The rest is 16thC when the porch and side aisles added.

It is quite dark inside the church. Near the door is a coin box. €1 gives 8 minutes lighting, much needed to see the detail.

There is an elaborately carved wooden door in the west wall. Above is a double gallery reached by a stair.

There is a simple nave with arches to a series of side chapels with alters in the side aisle, round topped stained glass widows and a vaulted ceiling.

The chancel is narrower and lower than the nave. On the walls are tall backed choir stalls with carved misericords. Above them on the north wall is a crucifix. The windows on the south wall are modern and have pictures of the Virgin and Child, God the Father and an abstract design.

Steps lead up to the high altar. This has a bulbous base with red and gilt decoration. Standing on it is an elaborately carved gilded host box with a crucifix above. The door is covered by a white cloth with a red cross. On either side are praying angels and there is a swirl of carved ears of wheat and grapes round them. Behind is a very elaborate curved retable. On the left is a gilt statue of St Peter and a statue of Bishop St Saturnin on the right. In the centre is a painting of the risen Christ in Heaven surrounded by adoring angels.

Round pillars on either side of the statues support the canopy. This has arches with angels and red drapes around the seated figure of God the Father, who is surrounded by cherub heads. Above is a carving of the seated Christ holding a cup and a cross.

At the sides of the retable, carved doors lead into the sacristy behind.

There are three chapels in the side aisles. The chapel on the north wall nearest the chancel has a carved altar with a host box and a painted statue of Christ and Notre-Dame de Lourdes on the walls.

The centre chapel has a blue and gilt box altar with a small reliquary box. Above is a blue reredos with barley corn twist pillars with gilt vines surrounding a statue of St Louis. The bottom of the walls are painted grey with a pattern of drapes held by gold circles. Above is a diamond pattern in grey with small circles at the corners with gilt symbols. Fleur de lis are painted in the centre of the diamonds which have a spotted background. The ceiling ribs are grey with brown sides and have a painted central boss. On the back wall is a confessional and an icon of the Virgin and Child.

The last chapel has a bulbous light and dark blue painted altar. Above is a retable with a picture of a knight on horseback with gilt scrolls round it. There is a small silver and gilt statue of St Agnes on wall. The north wall has a large brown frieze along the base of the wall with paintings of pillars with drapes on them. Above is a narrow band with a swirling design of outlines of vegetation. Above are horizontal bands of pink with grey bows and white with flower motifs. The vaulted ceiling ribs are painted in yellow, green, blue and brown and have a painted central boss.

The south aisle chapel by the chancel just has a wall mounted statue of the Virgin and Child.

The centre chapel has a green box altar with gilt decoration. Above is a silver cross. The retable has a painting of the baby Jesus being presented at temple in a carved frame with cherub heads. To one side is a beautiful old statue of the Virgin.

The last chapel on in the south aisle has a beautiful marble altar with an inlay of green and red roses on the base panels and a monogram M. There is a low stepped retable with an inlaid scroll design and integral host box. There is a small carved statue of the Virgin on this. The wall behind the altar has a picture of angels praying and giving thanks for the Virgin. Next to it is a statue St Antoine de Padoue.

On the back wall is a large marble memorial stone for the dead of World War One with names from all the local villages. It is a very long list and must have been devastating for the area. Beside it is a small memorial for World War Two.

This is another hidden gem. Ignored by the guide books and with little on the web, it sees few tourists as they rush from Aurillac to Salers and Puy Mary. St-Cernin is a pleasant small town and the inside of the church is so unexpected. It is well worth the short detour.

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