Romanesque Churches of France
A Traveller's Guide
Romanesque Churches of France:
A Traveller's Guide
was published as a paperback original in July 2005
384 pages 210 x 145 mm 166 black & white illustrations and 12 maps
Simon Jenkins, author of England's Thousand Best Churches (1999) and England's Thousand Best Houses (2003), and ex-editor of The Times: 'Peter Strafford's book should open people's eyes to one of the less-known treasures of France. He takes the reader to the ancient towns and villages where the best of these lovely churches are to be found, region by region; and he is a perceptive and knowledgeable guide who makes you want to visit each one of them.'
Sir Brian Young, Director-General, Independent Broadcasting Authority, 1970-82, and author of The Villein's Bible: Stories in Romanesque Carving (1990): 'A masterly and detailed account of Romanesque glories and their history: every section of it made me long to revisit that area of France with Peter Strafford’s book in hand.
Further recent comments from readers and reviewers
London Review of Books: 'Peter Strafford’s excellent guide to over 100 of the most important Romanesque churches in France will prove invaluable to scholars and historians as well as the curious amateur...a fitting tribute to what are some of Europe’s most beautiful buildings, set in some of its most beautiful landscapes.'
TLS, Robert Maxwell: '...a well-written guidebook...useful maps and excellent photographs, all by the author, and arranged appropriately in the text...The notable sculpture is always described as if it incorporated the essence of the visit...Peter Strafford, as well as covering the subject in a straightforward and sympathetic way, has passed on his own appreciation of “accomplished, well-proportioned buildings”, and his enthusiasm for the culture they contain.'
The Times, Peter Davies: '...[he] has principally concentrated on the masterpieces of the 11th and 12th centuries -- the high noon of the style...before the advent of Gothic changed the face of church architecture...A paperback which will fit easily enough into light luggage, it takes the wanderer, region by region, into towns and villages where the gems of the Romanesque heritage are to be found.'
Guardian, Eric Griffiths: '[He] evidently loves these churches, the way they accommodate the “devout and the homely”, their “quirkiness and humour. He selects with a taste born of long and affectionate attention from the myriad which remain...He is genuinely in touch with much that intrigues and may baffle a modern visitor.'
Church Building: 'An ideal companion for travellers, with an appeal to anyone interested in French architecture, it will be a stimulus both for the exploration of major landmarks and for the discovery of remote and less familiar masterpieces.'
The Tablet, Alain Woodrow: '...a passionate defence of a style...which does not always receive the attention it deserves, partly because it is overshadowed by Gothic, which replaced it in the Middle Ages...[His] commentaries are clear and concise...This book is ideal for travellers, with its many maps, and should tempt tourists off the beaten track to discover the lesser-known treasures of, for example, Auvergne.'
Blackheath Parish Magazine, Simon Scott Plummer: '...a comprehensive historical, architectural and sculptural guide which anyone interested in French Romanesque will want to have at hand when in France...His descriptions are minute and generously supplemented with close-up photographs, whether of Gospel scenes, apocalyptic monsters or intricate floral patterns...Strafford communicates his enthusiasm and, like all good guides, whets the appetite for more.'
The Romanesque churches to be found in every corner of France are one of the wonders of Europe. They were built between about 1000 and 1200 and were contemporary with English Norman architecture. Their architectural style varies from region to region, as do their size, shape and layout. The period saw the first revival of the art of sculpture since Roman times, and many of the churches such as Moissac, Autun, Vézelay and Chauvigny contain outstanding sculpture. Some, like St-Savin-sur-Gartempe and Tavant, have superb frescoes, and a few like Ganagobie have fine mosaics.
<> It was the age of pilgrimages and a number of the churches were built along the four great pilgrim routes through France to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain. Many have links to Romanesque churches in Italy, England and Germany, since Romanesque was a style that was admired throughout Europe.
<> Romanesque Churches of France, which covers a hundred or so churches in ten geographical sections from Normandy and Burgundy in the north to Provence, Roussillon and Languedoc in the south, is the first comprehensive book to be published on the subject.
<> It is an ideal companion for travellers, with its many maps and its regional arrangement, and will be a stimulus for the exploration of remote and beautiful areas that are less familiar, such as Auvergne and the Pyrenees. It will also be invaluable as a reference book for all those with a general interest in the history of French architecture and sculpture.
Peter Strafford is a distinguished journalist who worked on The Times for more than three decades, including in Paris and Brussels, and was, among other things, the Times correspondent in New York for five years and a leader-writer in London commenting on international affairs. His last position was editor of The Times's special reports on foreign countries, many of which he visited himself.
Romanesque style: stone vaulting, ambulatory
Origins: from the days of the ancient Greeks
Exchanges with neighbouring countries
France in the Romanesque period
Anzy-le-Duc, Montceaux l'Etoile,
Charlieu and St-Julien-de-Jonzy
Cluny and Berzé-la-Ville
Dijon: St Bénigne
Perrecy-les-Forges and Gourdon
Semur-en-Brionnais and Iguerande
Tournus and Chapaize
Bayeux and Thaon
Caen: St-Etienne, La Trinité and St-Nicolas
Montoire-sur-le-Loir and St-Jacques-des-Guérets
St-Benoît-sur-Loire and Germigny-des-Prés
Clermont Ferrand: Notre-Dame-du-Port
Rioux and Rétaud
St-Jouin-de-Marnes and Airvault
Toulouse: St Sernin
Cistercian abbeys in Provence:
Sénanque, Silvacane and Le Thoronet
Roussillon and Languedoc
The Master of Cabestany:
Cabestany, St-Hilaire-d'Aude, St-Papoul, Rieux-Minervois, Le Boulou
Corneilla-de-Conflent and Villefranche-de-Conflent
St-Génis-des-Fontaines, St-André-de Sorède and Arles-sur-Tech
St-Bertrand-de-Comminges and St-Just-de-Valcabrère