Eglise Saint-Symphorien

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Église St-Symphorien is in the centre of Azay-le-Rideau and was the priory church. The rest of the buildings were demolished after the Revolution when the château grounds were extended. The main entrance is off the old market place which was the heart of the old town. The market hall was rebuilt in 20thC after a fire.

The church is 12thC apart from the south transept which is later and built in the classical style with flat pillars with fluted tops on the outside and a dome above. Over the transept is a short tower with a pointed tile roof with stairs in the adjacent round tower. The nave is older than the north aisle, giving the west end an asymmetrical appearance. The door into the nave has a carved portico with a narrow carved canopy over it. Above is a tall round topped window with embossed flowers round the archway and a ledge on either side supported by carved animal heads. On either side of the window are carvings of 7 saints set in small round topped niches. There are another seven figures above the top of the window with Christ as the central figure. The remains of an earlier roof line can be seen with decorative triangles of diamond shaped tiles.

To left a plain wooden doorway with a carved scroll above leads into the north aisle. Above is a large Gothic window with blank niches on either side.

Coming inside from bright sunlight, the inside of the church feels very dark as the only light is through long narrow stained glass windows. The windows are 19thC apart from those on the south wall which were destroyed in the Second World War.

The nave has large fluted pillars with acanthus capitals supporting the tall vaulted ceiling. Pointed arches lead into the north aisle. There is a carved wooden pulpit with a cupola shaped canopy above with an angel holding a cross. On the walls are framed carvings of the Stations of the Cross.

The apse at the east end has carved angel heads at the base of the ceiling ribs. There are the remains of frescoes on the walls. The carved stone altar has figures carved along the base and a carved stone host box in the shape of a church porch with pinnacles on the corners.

There is a simple stone altar at the end of the north aisle with a statue of the Virgin above. The south transept altar is no longer used. A stone portico surrounds a painting of the Good Shepherd with his flock of sheep.

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