Church of Saint Jacques
The collegiate church of St Jacques, consecrated in 1171, was built to welcome pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. In 1562, the nave, choir loft and bell tower were completely destroyed during the religious wars, but the beautifully carved façade was fortunately left undamaged. The Church in its current form was completed in 1710. Inspired by the cathedrals of Angouleme and Poitiers, the church is built of limestone. The triple Saintonge style archways show a combination of the oriental and western influences which are the signature of Romanesque Architecture. It is worth noting; the Romanesque influence in the art of stone-masonry, the Moorish influence from Spain, shown in the entrance portal, the Carolingian influence inspired from illuminated manuscripts and goldsmith’s plates, the Celtic, Visigoth and Scandinavian influences shown in abstract deco sculptures and the Byzantine influence brought back from the Crusades The carving of the capitals, the symmetry of the composition, the elegant arcades and the many symbols illustrating cosmology in the stone carvings were, for the 12th century pilgrims and believers, a vision of the beauty of the world created by God. Medieval man, often illiterate, would divine in these images and colourful carvings, which were his bible, the spiritual message which would lead to his salvation. The mixture of the signs of the zodiac, the natural world, gargoyles, griffins, mythical figures and human faces combine to create a symbolism, which feeds the imagination, and whilst challenging and even frightening, serves always to inform the observer. Even truncated and damaged, the title page of this stone book has brought together the visible and the invisible on the path to the Christian faith and has provided for every onlooker a rich souvenir of Holy splendour.