Priory church of St-Pierre

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The Priory church of St-Pierre boasts one of the tallest towers in Limousin.

It is a very attractive red sandstone building in Collanges-La-Rouge with a splendid tower above the transept. it has a square base with open round top arches. Above are blind arches set inside triangles. Above these is the octagonal bell tower with a pointed witches hat roof.

On the north west corner of the church is a later square tower with a cupola on the top.

The earliest parts of the church date from the 11thC and it was fortified during the 16thC during the Wars of Religion.

The church is built of red sandstone apart from the tympanum and arches above the west door which are carved from gleaming white stone. The tympanum has the risen Christ in Majesty at the top flanked by angels. Below are the eleven disciples and the Virgin Mary.

Beneath are two wooden door with huge metal hinges. Above each is a trefoil carved from white stone with a narrow carved rim. The round pillars on either side of the door have white stone capitals carved with grapes and swirls. The red sandstone arches have embossed studs.

The inside of the church is very wide and, at first sight, appears to have two naves and chancels. The 11thC nave, transept and chancel are on the right. In the 16thC a large side aisle was added to the left. This has two small chapels off the north wall with statues of St Ann and the young Virgin Mary and also St Theresa.

The 16thC nave/side aisle has a pointed arch into the chancel with has an elaborate green and gilt altar with a sunburst with IHS in the centre and gilded carvings of bishops on either side. Above is a carved and gilded retable with a small carving of the last supper along the base with scrolls and wheat ears on either side. The host box has an image of Christ on the door with cherub heads. The panels on either side have figures with cherub heads below and ears of wheat above. On the back wall is a reredos with barleycorn twist pillars with gilded vine leaves and grapes. In the centre is a crucifix with gilded figures of Mary and St John at his feet. At the base is a sunburst with the Sacre Coeur at the centre. On either side are gilded statues of a bishop holding a crook with a panel with the instruments of the passion underneath. At the top of the reredos is another sunburst with God the Father at the centre.

The 11thC nave has a vaulted ceiling and there are two two disused chapels on the south wall. The back one has a rather nice carving of three cherub heads on the east wall. The second has a statue of the Virgin with the young Jesus, who is standing on a blue globe with gilt stars.

The round domed transept with round arches on round pillars with carved capitals. Above the transept arch is an old wood carving of a cross with two figures standing by it, one wearing a crown.

The high altar is wood and painted in green and gold. It has pillars with pointed arches on the base with MARIE in gilt spelt out under the tops of the arches. Below is a diamond pattern with scrolls and crosses. The small host box has gilt leaves and grapes on a rust background. Above is a small reredos with a pieta in the centre with a series of carved scenes on either side set in barleycorn twisted pillars with vine leaves and grapes. On either side, on a pedestal with a carved arch around are statues of Jesus with the Sacre Coeur and The Virgin Mary.

The walls and ceiling are plastered and painted. The walls are dark pink/beige with ed and beige flowers. The ceiling is grey with small blue flowers. There is a red frieze round the vaulting ribs.

There is a small apse at the end of the south wall next to the chancel. This has a glass top coffin with a carved wooden effigy of the dead Christ lying in it with nail holes in his hands and feet. On the wall opposite is an old oil painting of the crucifixion.

This really is a delightful church, especially the Romanesque nave and chancel which has a timeless appeal to it. It is definitely worth a visit.

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