Just across from the church was the splendid former house of the Prior built in 1510 and now a private residence . (1st picture)
We then followed part of a walk that can be found in the leaflet issued by the Association des Petite Cités de Caractère de Maine et Loire which we picked up in the tiny tourist Information office opposite the church.
It seemed just like a room in somebody's house but had a friendly member of staff and and a large collection of local information brochures and leaflets . And a computer for public use!(Pic.2)
We would have liked to look in the small gallery - almost next door - but it was closed and was not open on our return visit two days later. (Pic.3)
On the walk up to the cemetery were a number of tuffeau houses some partly built into the limestone cliff behind.(pic.4)
Finally we reached the cemetery and the remains of the 9thC church of Saint-Maxenceul which was destroyed in a storm in the 18thC. (Brochure photo)
We first visited - or tried to visit on a sunny Sunday afternoon.The first problem was to find a parking place - every bit of space was taken - so we parked on the main road almost outside the Mairie. We soon realised something special was taking place. Smartly dressed people were entering the church, a steward was giving directions and taking tickets. We had arrived just as the Sunday Music Hour of Cunault was due to begin -a regular concert in the church every Sunday in July and August. That afternoon it was to be a baroque concert but we were too late to get a ticket.We tried to listen from outside for a while but the stout walls and heavy door allowed little sound to escape. So we took a walk around the village, found the ruins of the early church of Saint -Maxenceul who brought Christianity to Cunault in the 4th century.
Later we returned to the church but after peeping inside as the concert goers left we decided to come on another day for a fuller visit. There was obviously much to see here.
With the relics left by the fleeing Benedictine monks,(a vial of the dried milk of the Virgin and her wedding ring), in the early 11C it was decided to build a very large, tall pigrimage church with an ambulatory and devoted to the Virgin. A belltower already in place was finished and capped with a spire. During the ensuing century Romanesque roofing styles progressed from barrel vaults to groined ones and in the 12C to Angevine vaulting in the western 3 of the 11 bays.These are a visual text to study, along with a dome in the tower. Later, when pilgrimages went out of style, the choir half of the church was blocked off and rented out as a barn! In the 19C the entire church was reestablished and restored.