Eglise St-Maur

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St-Maur is a large and impressive building at the western end of the fortified old town of Martel.

The 14thC nave is very tall with a variety of roof lines and almost impossible to photograph. It is heavily buttressed at the corners and there are more buttresses along the nave above the side aisles. At the west end is a huge square 16thC tower with massive corner buttresses and a 19thC hexagonal bell chamber with a pointed roof. A smaller round tower on the south west corner has a walkway giving access to the bells.

Under the bell tower is a huge porch with the west door. This has a beautifully carved 12thC tympanum of Christ in Majesty with four angels, two with long trumpets. Below is a carved frieze with swirls, foliage and leaves. Inside the door is a smaller porch with more doors and steps down into the church. On the inside of this door are huge barleycorn twisted pillars with vine leaves twined up them. They originally supported a balcony which was destroyed in the Revolution.

It is an amazing sight inside as every surface is covered with painted geometric designs in every colour imaginable.

The nave is very wide with side chapels set back off it under pointed arches with latin script along the top. . Wall pillars lead up to the elaborately vaulted ceiling. There is a 14thc crucifix on the north wall and a carved wooden pulpit with canopy on the south wall.

Steps lead up to the chancel with a wrought iron altar rail and wooden choir stalls on the side walls. There is a small free standing altar with a painting of the head of Christ with a crown of thorns on the base. Behind is the high alter with a small gilt retable with host box, side panels and silver crucifix. On the east wall is a series of grey and gilt panels with oil paintings and latin texts. In the centre is a painting of the crucifixion with gilded fluted pillars on either side. On the north wall of the chancel is a massive mural with a cross and the figures of the eleven disciples below. The Gothic east window has a series of images of the Passion. On either side are paintings of angels.

The transepts have 17thC wooden altars with small retables above them and splendid reredos on the back walls.

The reredos in the Chapel of the Sacre Coeur of St Catherine in the north transept has red marble pillars and panels with a gilt edge, set in grey marble. The oil painting in the centre represents the communion of St Catherine. Above is a silver grey cloud with cherubs heads.

The altar in the Chapel of the Virgin in the south transept has a small gilt retable with an elaborately carved host box with a gilded statue of the Virgin above. The reredos on the back wall has grey wood panels with gilded carved decorations of garlands, vine leave and grapes. Fluted pillars with gilt acanthus leaf tops support the portico. In the centre is a painting of the Assumption of the Virgin. On the wall is a small reliquary box of St Victoris.

The altars in the side chapels are less elaborate and just have a small retable with a host box. although the altar at the back of the south wall has a splendid red and gilt host box with cherub heads. There is a beautiful painted and gilded pieta set in a frame with cherub heads and surrounded by scrolls.

This is a beautiful church in an attractive small town and well worth visiting.

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