Notre-Dame la Grande

Poitiers, France

The west front of Notre-Dame la Grande church adorned with statuary is recognised as a masterpiece of Romanesque religious art. The district was already populated in Roman times. The ancient vestiges of a brick and rectangular stone construction can be located near the gutter on the northern wall of the current church.

The church is mentioned in the 10th century, referring to the Romanesque church of the same name. Its position next to the Palace of the Counts of Poitou-Dukes of Aquitaine, is certainly significant as from the political point of view, the bishops of Poitiers were barons of Poitou. The whole of the building was rebuilt in the second half of the 11th century, in the period of High Romanesque, and inaugurated in 1086 by the future Pope Urban II.

The plan of the church is composed of a central nave with aisles according to a frequent plan in Romanesque architecture of Poitou. A deambulatory with radiating chapels developed around the church which preserved a part of its murals. A crypt of the 11th century, dug a posteriori under the choir, also preserves frescos of the time. The plan does not have transepts, for good reasons: buildings were in the north, and the principal street passes to the south. The Romanesque gate is preserved in part to the south. Cut down by this stage, one found there before the Revolution, an equestrian statue representing Constantine. This statue was the counterpart of another, older statue destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. It is not known if the identity of the first rider had been the same. Behind this statue, on the ground, a small vault dedicated to Saint Katherine was referred to during the Middle Ages. The bell-tower dates from the 11th century. In the beginning it was much more obvious: the first level is concealed today by the roofs. Located at the site of the crossing, it presents a square base, then over it a circular level of a roof decorated with tiles. This type of roof, frequent in the south-west, was often copied by the architects of the 19th century, in particular Paul Abadie in Angoulême, Périgueux and Bordeaux.

During the second quarter of the 12th century, the old bell-tower-porch which was on the frontage was removed and the church was increased by two spans towards the west. In the south, the turret of a staircase marks the site of this enlargement. It is at that time that the celebrated frontage-screen was built.

In the north, there was a cloister in the 12th century. It was removed in 1857 for the construction of the metal markets. There remains the door (walled up). Three arches supported by columns duplicated with capitals with foliage were re-installed in the court of the university opposite, as was a pillar on the corner.

Private vaults were added to the Romanesque structure during the 15th and 16th centuries. Of Flamboyant Gothic style, they belonged to the middle-class families of the city, who had been merchants since the end of the Middle Ages. The largest was built in the south by Yvon the Insane, Grand Seneschal of Poitou in the 15th century. His tomb was placed there before the Revolution.

The church was refurnished after the Revolution. Thus, one finds there a Baroque pulpit carved from wood in the 17th century, coming from the convent, two bronze lecterns of the 16th century. The statue of Our Lady of the Keys dated from the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century. The tradition says that it is a copy of the miraculous statue, destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. Its hieratic, foreign style in the taste of the end of the 16th century, recalls the Romanesque period. The whole of the stained glass dates from the 19th and 20th centuries. The choir organ is end of the 19th century, whereas the large organ is from 1996.

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Details

Founded: 11th century
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Birth of Capetian dynasty (France)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sasha (5 months ago)
An impressive church both due to its age and architecture, different from other churches due to its darkness
Louis and Elaine (6 months ago)
We found Our Lady the Great (Notre-Dame la Grande) to be a beautiful eleventh century church. This is a Romanesque design so it is much darker inside compared with the later gothic cathedrals. The interior is also filled beautifully painted support columns. This is a really impressive thousand year old church.
Simona Cristea (8 months ago)
Such a beautiful church, loved all the small details on the pillars, the statues and the paintings, beyond extraordinary.
Lindsey Hammond (10 months ago)
Wonderfully preserved, beautiful old church - exterior and interior. Amazing painted pillars, decorated side chapel ceilings and stained glass. We had the extra joy of a solo with organ rehearsal. Free entry, short walk from Hotel de ville. Quiet as no market on a Monday
Ian Bake (2 years ago)
A very ancient church, medium sized but contains a lot of history with beautiful stained glass and painted ceilings. Located in the heart of the old Poitiers village. Very quaint.
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