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Report 2029: France 2012 Part 1 - The Loire Valley
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2012
Page 4 of 33: St Malo to Perusson - Candes-St-Martin and the Collegiate Church of Saint-Martin
Candes-St-Martin is an attractive and well kept settlement with very narrow streets with traffic calming measures which decrease the width of the road in places to slow down traffic. Pavements are very narrow so you have to watch out for traffic. Streets are lined with nice old stone houses of white tufa limestone with dark tile roofs. Narrow flower lined alleyways lead down to the river or up the hillside. There are several specialist shops but all were shut for lunch. We headed for the church.
There has been a church here since St Martin arrived in the 4thC, built a hermitage and converted the local population. He is buried in one of the chapels inside the church.
The church was built in the 12thC from white tufa and has a dark tiled roof. The fortified porch with room above was added in 15thC during the Hundred Years War. There are machicolations and crenulations along the top of the tower. The front is decorated with columns and statues.
A flight of stairs leads up into the porch which has a large arched ceiling with a central pillar. There are the remains of old and new testament figures in niches on the walls, separated by pillars and with angels above. Many lost their heads during the Revolution. Below is a wide carved frieze. This has two bands of oak leaves. Between are carvings of angel heads, kings and queens and green men. The detail is amazing. There is a splendid tympanum above the door with Christ in Majesty surrounded by two figures.
Inside, the nave is massive and very tall with two side aisles. There are tall fluted pillars with a band of carving at the top leading to pointed arches and a vaulted ceiling. The windows are long and thin with rounded tops and plain glass. On the walls are small carvings of the Stations of the Cross.
There are carvings, many still with the remains of paint, and polychrome statues around the church, especially on the transept pillars. At the back is Christ on the cross with Mary and John. There are memorial stones to the dead of World War One with 14 names and World War Two, with just two names, reflecting the heavy losses experienced in the first war and the devastating effect it must have had on small places like this.
There is a well in the corner of the south transept where there is a chapel to the Virgin. The altar has a large retable with decorative carved pillars with leaves carved round the base and gilded tops. In the center is a large painting of the Adoration of the Virgin. Above is a statue of the Virgin and Child in a small niche surrounded by carved pillars with a cherub head above with gilt wings and a small crucifix at the top.
The transept arches have carved bases with leaf patterns. There is a modern free standing mass altar in the transept. The high altar is a simple dark bulbous base with gilt bands and a host box with a gilt door above. There are old wooden choir stalls with misericords along the walls.
The north transept chapel is dedicated to St Martin and there is a large painting of St Martin above the arch. A marble slab on the floor records St Martin died here 8 November 397. The altar has a statue of him lying below it and the stained glass window above also depicts St Martin. On the left is a stained glass window of monks mourning his death and taking his body by boat to Tours. This is a site of pilgrimage and there are many marble 'Merci' plates on the chapel walls giving thanks to St Martin.
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