Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Feel of the South

oratory of Germigny-des-Prés, Loiret, France

No, this is not in the Mediterranean region. This oratory in Germigny-des-Prés is in the Region Centre of France, built at the start of the 9th century by Bishop Theodulf of Orléans. Now one of the oldest churches in the country, it was once part of the bishop’s palace complex in the Gallo-Roman villa of Germaniacus. The chapel is built around a square lantern tower extending towards the four cardinal points, forming a Greek cross. This layout became the archetype for many Byzantine structures. And in France, the oratory of Germigny-des-Prés seems to be the oldest with this architecture.

When we visited the town last summer, we could have passed the chapel without knowing. It does not have an elaborate structure or ornately-designed edifice. But I like its “austerity” --- it coaxes you to shed your pretentions and bare your soul to the One above. As a sanctuary, its “massiveness” amplifies the feeling of safety, a solid refuge from the “evil” and harshness of the world outside, if not for the people of today, at least to those who lived during the uncertain times of the Middle Ages. I could imagine Bishop Theodulf coming here to meditate and seek guidance as he tries to expound on Christian morality, write theological capitularies and combat faulty interpretation of what was discussed and agreed upon in the council of Nicaea. With its narrow windows and thick walls, the interior exudes silence and solemnity, a great atmosphere for contemplating and praying.

On a clear blue day, there’s a kind of serenity, just by gazing at it from the outside. And with the conifers around it, it has a Mediterranean feel to it… like I’m somewhere in Provence or Tuscany. And it being in north-central part of France, the view is quite uncommon. I believe it would have more of the “Roman” feel about it if during its restoration in the 19th century its original construction was respected. But then, there’s nothing we can do about it now. At least we can still see a glimpse of how it must have looked like almost a dozen of centuries ago. In fact, the oratory is the only surviving structure when Vikings invaded the villa several decades after its construction. And even if some architectural historians find the present-day oratory a "reconstruction" and not a restoration, I believe we're still fortunate to have it still standing after all these years.

(Germigny-des-Prés part 1)


lisaschaos said...

What a unique piece of architecture! Love it! Looks like beautiful weather there too!

lareine said...

lisa, these photos were taken last summer, hence the nice weather... right now, we have overcast skies and a lot of wind... how i wish the sky would clear up!... well, i guess we all just have to wait for a few more months before we get a blue sky again:)...

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