Here comes my 1st new UNESCO site of this year. A few months ago i've sent an official card to Damien but it got expired; more than 200 days later i've sent a second card and that one was received. After registering my card, Damien read my profile and checked my UNESCO missing list and offered one of my missing sites, the Abbey of Saint-Savin sur-Gartempe. He was really nice, wasn't he? Merci Damien!!
The Abbey of Saint-Savin sur-Gartempe in the Vienne is famed for its 11th century paintings that have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it has been called the Romanesque Sistine Chapel – but the church itself is also beautiful with its marble-style columns (put in during the 19th century) that are swirls of lovely colour, stretching upwards.
© M. G. Editions
The abbey is said to have been founded in the time of Charlemagne (747-814), to shelter the bodies of two fifth-century martyrs, Savin and Cyprian – the original tomb still survives. It was rebuilt in the 11th century and the murals are from this time. The spire was added in the 14th century.
It suffered, however, during the turbulent centuries that followed, pillaged by the Black Prince, son of Edward III in 1371 then almost destroyed in the 16th century. The abbey ceased to exist as a religious institution during the French Revolution when the monks were thrown out and the abbey transformed into a parish church.
The murals were first restored in the mid-19th century, and then again in between 2005-2008 and now the colours – ochre reds and yellows, browns and greens – are really strong. They portray stories from Genesis and Exodus, in the order in which they are found in the Bible. Some have disappeared but most are still there including Noah’s Ark, the old man drunk and naked sometime later, the Passage through the Red Sea with its rearing horses, and the building of the Tower of Babel.
The latter is one of the reasons the abbey was awarded UNESCO status – the detail shown, from the architect with his set square, to the square design of the fortress and the pulley system used to lift materials to the top of the building – show what life was really like almost 1,000 years ago.
The nave is where the most celebrated murals are, however, there are more on the western porch (the resurrection of Christ) and in the crypt (the martyrdom of Saints Savin and Cyprien. - in: http://www.discover-poitou-charentes.com/what-to-see/Abbey-of-Saint-Savin.htm