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If you are present in the Porch at the appropriate time (noon daily except Sunday at 11:00AM), there is admission to the service, but not to the rest of the church. Actually admission begins ten minutes earlier and I wandered about during that time and quickly took picturea of much of what is seen here of the interiors. (I did not see a sign of no photography). During the service, one of the white cloaked brethren rebuked me sharply with one word for raising a camcorder, and then watched me like a hawk. I am not sure that I was allowed to take any of the pictures presented here. We have been in many religious sites where photography was absolutely forbidden at all times:Cappuchin catacombs, Cathedral of Avila, etc. but Rich Steves is allowed to film. We will have more about this in our Introduction.
Written Dec 13, 2008
The only contents of the church are objects that are hard or improper to carry off. So great was the plunder of the Abbot Odet , one of the three Coligny brothers reared by Connetable Anne de Montmorency. (Another of the brothers built Tanlay (See our Tips there). When Odet converted to Protestantism, he permitted the dismantling and melting down of the Treasure and dispersal and sale of the ancient library illuminated books and 2000 manuscripts! Surrounding the altar is a mosaic tile floor of Roman origin Adjacent to that, at the northeast end of the choir is the tomb of Philip I (Capet) (d.1108) with a remodeled gisant on top In a transept chapel, which we were not allowed to enter is a Merovingian Mumma shrine. Finally there are the fine carved choir stalls (1413) at the transept, which the monks occupy during services.
Written Dec 13, 2008
The nave was the last part of the church built (1150-1218). The entire church is 365 feet long and is very high. The five nave bays have slightly pointed arches and tetrapartite ribbed vaults (as would be expected in early Gothic). The aisles have groined vaults with steps at the East end that leads to the ambulatory sited above the crypt. The length of the choir is enlarged by one bay (also a second transept as in Cluny) making a large area. The choir stalls are at the main transept. The chevet and transepts were built before the nave (1067-1108) and are perfect Romanesque with a blind triforium and barrel vaulting. The church is built of off white grayish stones. (We were not allowed to walk in the transepts and ambulatory and did not see a Merovingian shrine. See Our Introduction for important details of the visitor problem). The view of the chevet from the nave is striking. At the West end is an organ loft.
Written Dec 13, 2008
The oldest capital carvings at St. Benoit are worked from the corners of the capital block and the intervening face, making three areas to trea t separately in the earliest times, often vertically divided as such. A great many are simple foliage exhibits. Here, when human figures are portrayed , they are short of leg with large heads. We find a profusion of lions (?) which are a caricature of the beast often with sly faces. On the bases and the abacus above inscriptions in Hebrew or Latin appear. One has “Unbertus me fecit” (we have no picture) probably the chief sculptor. We could not visit the choir and transepts, so did not see the early 12 C capitals there but were ablr to see those high up in the nave which areearly 13C and are more refined. (Please try to supplement this Tip).
Updated Dec 13, 2008
On the North side of the church just east of the porch-tower is the North Door.complete with a tympanum built before 1200.. The appearance of jamb statues suggest an affiliation with the Chartres school, but the figures are worn. (The inner one on the right is said to be Abraham). The tympanum work is of high quality (like the high capitals in the nave and ambulatory of the same period, late 11C). Thhe upper part shows Christ in Majesty with the four Evsngelists (as people). The upper two, Matthew and John, who knew him, are looking toward hime, the other two Luke and Mark, are looking elsewhere. On the lintel are three scenes about the relics of St. Benedict. (L>R)The removal of his remains from the sarcophagus at Monte Cassiano, the carrying of his casket and a reliquary of the relics of Ste. Scholastica, is siste, obtained at the same place, and finally their arrival at the monastery with the relics on their shoulders and the monks greeting them. The recessed arcades show an inner ring of Angels with candles and censers and an outer ring og Apostles. There are three jamb column statues on each side. They are quite worn and we could not identify any of them.
Written Dec 12, 2008
The first thing you see and ultimately enter is the porch-tower which was completed before 1050. This means that the carved capitals on the columns may be earlier than those of Moissac or Toulouse. In any event this represents a different school than the Souuthern one and here too a master has left his name, Umbertus has chiseled his name in the base of a capital. The porch is essentially square with four interior support piers and outside supports. Applied columns and arches segment the area, with a central three part arcaded passage. It is a nine chambered affair. Between the arches and columns are the carved capitals, one for each column. The carvings range from simple floral acanthus patterns to Biblcal scenes. A second story is present aboce the porch and it is arranged as a chapel with three altars in niches. The porch and church are made of finely worked blocks of white stone with other colorations permeating them. These were quarried up river in the Nivernais and brought by barges. There was a grand third floor and tower which were removed by Francois I as punishment in 1527 after the brethren had staged a sit-in in the porch to protest the appointment of a Commendatory Abbot, which obviously failed when the Armyy came to evict them. The present roof with belfry and lanterrn were built in the17C. (A complete view of the Abbey church is on our Intro page). Upon the west face of the porch , on the left of center at the second level is a worn frieze (no information on this).
Written Dec 11, 2008