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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012

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Page 12 of 33: Loches - Église St-Ours

photo by MAW


Église St Ours is in the center of the old town occupying a commanding position above the River Indre between the Logis Royale and the Donjon. It has a distinct and eccentric outline with two octagonal pyramids over the nave between the two non-identical spires. The larger square tower is above the transept and has smaller towers at the four corners. Above the west porch is a shorter hexagonal tower with tiled spire.

In the 6th century St Ours founded a monastery here. In the 10thC Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and father of Foulques Nerra, built the collegiate church of Our Lady. There is nothing of this building left today.

The present building dates from 11-15thC, was restored in the 19thC and is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. 

The square base of the west porch tower, lower parts of the nave walls and parts of the north wall of the transept are 11thC. The rest of the church is 12thC apart from the north aisle which was added in the 15thC. The archways between the nave and the side aisles were only opened in the 19th century during the restorations. Before then the only connection were two small passageways at each side of the transept crossing. After the French Revolution, the chapter of the Collegiate Church of Our Lady was dissolved and the church was named St Ours, becoming the parish church.

There is a massive buttressed entrance porch at the west end of the church with narrow pillars with carved capitals supporting round arches over the doorway. Above is a tiny round window. Inside the porch there is a large Gallo-Roman stoup with carved panels round the outside. The ceiling is rib vaulted and carved with animals and monsters, geometrical patterns, leaves, palms...

The polychrome doorway was badly defaced during the Revolution, but is still pretty impressive. Traces of polychromy are still visible. Again there are round pillars with carved capitals supporting elaborately carved and painted arches, decorated with birds, monkeys, hares, bears, mythological monsters, minstrels and acrobats. On either side are statues of St Peter holding the keys of Heaven and an archbishop. 

Above is a beautifully carved tympanum with the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus in her lap. On the left, the Magi are bringing their gifts. On the right is St Joseph and beyond him are the three magi asleep in the same bed. Above them is the remains of the angel waking them and warning them to return home a different way to avoid King Herod.

The nave is large and very plain with a vaulted ceiling and huge paintings on the walls. Round arches at the back of the west tower support the organ. There are no pillars, just low arches opened during the 19thC restoration into the side aisles. There are two small doors in the south wall which have a carved border of flowers. Stained glass windows in the nave have a dog toothed border below and have blue or red flowers on a pale grey/beige background.

There is a decoratively carved transept arch, which has a tile like pattern on the walls above. There is a carving of Joseph with Jesus on one transept pillar and a bishop on the other. The tops of the pillars have carved capitals and figures which still have traces of paint on them.

The tomb of Agnes Sorrel is now at the back of the north aisle with sheep at her feet and angels at her head. At the other end of the north aisle is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary with a crowned statue of her on the altar, marble ‘Merci’ plates on the walls and candles to light.

In the transept, there is a free standing mass altar which has a beaten metal front with a cross and a design of trees underneath. There are old carved wooden choir stalls in the chancel. The windows have round pillars and decorative carved tops with a frieze round the bottom. The marble high altar has a gilt retable with a gilt host box with cross above it. On either side are tall wooden candlesticks. Above is a stained glass window of the Virgin and Child. Windows on either side have a flower motif on a blue background. 

The small chapel at the end of the south aisle has a marble altar with a statue of Christ above. On the side wall is the remains of a 12thC fresco of St Brice which was removed from the crypt and has been mounted on a wooden board.

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