Girgols and Notre-Dame de la Nativity

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You won’t find this in the guide book and and apart from a few pictures, there is virtually nothing on the web. We found it by chance having seen a sign for 'Église Romane' off the main road (D922) north of Aurillac and decided to investigate.

It was a lovely drive through woodland and pasture with Salers cows. There was the constant sound of cow bells.

Girgols is a tiny hamlet with a few old stone houses round the church and a small lavoir. A few houses are still lived in, some are holiday gîtes, but several are now derelict. We parked on the road by the church which is reached along a grassy path. It was locked but we found someone working in one of the derelict houses who told us that we could get the key from the big house with the black gate below the church. Madame came to unlock the church with a huge, very old metal key and we were told to leave the door open.

Notre-Dame de la Nativité is thought to have been built on a pagan site. It is a small rectangular building set in a round grassy enclosure with a stone wall. The church was originally the oratory of a priory attached to Aurillac. It has buttressed walls, a stone slab roof and two bells in a cloche peigne at the west end, which is a later addition. The sacristy on the north wall by the chancel was also added later.

Entry is through the south door. The old wooden door has three small diamond windows above. It is flanked by small round pillars with carved capitals supporting a round arch with carvings and small diagonal windows above. Above is a later rectangular window with glazing bars – part of the 19thC modifications?

Inside the door is a very old stone font. By the north wall is the remains of a stone host box on a pillar. Above is a memorial to the dead of World War One with 10 names, the French flag and statues of Joan of Arc and St Theresa by it.

On the west wall are remains of old wooden pews, a casualty of the 19thC renovations. Steps lead up to a wooden gallery across the west end.

The nave is later than the chancel and has a vaulted ceiling which was lowered in the 19thC. Chandeliers provide light. There is a big carved wooden altar on the north wall and a wooden confessional on the south wall with St Antoine de Padoue. Beautiful modern stained glass windows have scenes of the Annunciation, presentation of Jesus at the temple and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The chancel is narrower than the nave. On either side of the chancel arch are small wooden altars with retables carved to resemble the east end of a Gothic style church. The south altar has a statue of Jesus clothed in red, blue and gold on the host box. The north aisle a statue of Notre-Dame de Lourdes. On the wall near it is a framed icon of the Virgin and Child. Between the altars is a simple free standing mass altar.

The remains of the round chancel arch is partially hidden by the later additions to the nave. The chancel has a barrel apse. There is a stone bench round the base of the walls. Above this, round pillars support blind, round topped arches with statues of St Roch, Joseph and the young Jesus and St Peter.

The white stone high altar has a blue marble effect front with a carving of a sheep on the base. There is a small retable with very decorative gilt host box. This has a pelican plucking her breast with three babies in the door. Above are two cherub heads with garlands. There are carvings of painted angels on either side of the altar.

This is a delightful church in a delightful setting. It really is a hidden gem and well worth discovering.

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