🌚 Suprised Hybrid, Notre-Dame de Surgères, Charente-Maritime, France ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Ⓒ Peter Callas 2018. All Rights Reserved. This image may not be used, reposted or reproduced in any way without prior written permission from the copyright holder.
A 12th century Romanesque jewel erected in the center of a large castle, the church of Surgères was a halt on the Via Turonensis (the Way of Tours), which connected to the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and the pilgrims had a lot to gape at here. It has an imposing and astonishly detailed 23 meter wide facade with impressive bundles of columns. It has over 100 corbels and metopes depicting Atlanteans, a mermaid, acrobats, musicians, lions, monkeys, elephants, a dromedary, a collection of zodiac figures, an Ouroboros and many other bizarre hybrids.
After terrible loss and destruction to many parts of the church during the 100 Years War and the French Revolution it was heavily altered and restored during the 19th century. Prosper Mérimée, who was appointed the first inspector-general of historical monuments of France in 1834, was so impressed that in 1841 he described this as the most beautiful facade he found in the Saintonge.
The central window of the facade is flanked by two horsemen which have been variously interpreted, here as well as on other churches in the Saintonge, as “Imperial Riders” or Emperor Constantine riding over Paganism, or as specific historical figures.
This apse is built on an 11th century crypt where four large low-sloping arches rest on a central pillar. On the vaults, old frescoes date back to the 16th century. They were restored in 2003. They represent angels sounding the trumpet, evoking the Last Judgment.
The way the elegant facade is structured with its carved capitals and Imperial Horsemen seems strangely classical. There were many ruins of the former Roman province which might have influenced the classical appearance of the building, but the bizarre cacophony of its myriad sculptures are purely Romanesque.
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