Chauvigny owes much of its fame to important medieval heritage.
Perched on a rocky promontory commanding the valleys of the Vienne and Talbat no less than five castles form a fortified foreground, unusual in Europe
Chauvigny's old historic center is very small. But it is in my opinion one of the best things about visiting here. I urge you to take an hour or so and simply walk through the small streets and view the cobblestones, the old house facades and picturesque views.
There is free parking at the entrance to the old city.
Atop the old city, just behind the Eglise St. Pierre is located the museum. There is also an observation area called the Musee Panorama which is obviously named for its placement at the highest point and the views that it provides.
The museum has local artifacts and displays which show the cities lineage back to the 12th century or even further. This building focuses more on daily life, clothing and household related items.
The Donjon de Gouzon is a restored 12th century structure that now houses the Industrial Archaeology Museum. Again, it provides historical commentary and artifacts on the areas wealthy history of stone, pottery, lime and other mills.
One tickets provides entrance to both museums:
Mon– Fri 10am–12.30pm & 2.30–6.30pm
Sat & Sun 2.30–6.30pm
Within the ruins of the Chateau Baronnial, is a bird training facility and aviary. There are several different types, such as eagles, and various sizes too, but one thing for sure is that their training is all of the highest level.
They have regular presentations and shows where the birds are set off to perform their aerial feats, then they all circle back and return. You can watch from the center of the Chateau provided you pay the admission.
If you are a castle buff, there are several in varying degrees of disrepair in the area. There are three close to the Church of St.-Pierre. We merely eye-balled them. We parked next to the Donjon of the castle of Gouzon. It houses a museum but we did not go in and so do not know what industrial archeology is (stone-hammers?).
The biblical scenes are confined to alternate capitals around the choir. The others in this area are of horrible monsters, some of them devouring sinners. The biblical scenes on a single capital are related and the subjects on one face often spill over to the next. The use of “edge carved figures” is minimal suggesting these are all the work of the self-naming sculptor.
The finest of the early capitals are above the lower tall columns of the chevet. Half of them have figurative scenes from the New Testament with expressivity and motion. Some are inscribed with text to aid in their identification and miraculously one has named the Master responsible for the work ("Gofridus Mea Fecit"; a rare example of medieval artistic pride). Unfortunately the coloring has overemphasized lines in the carvings making them coarser and more primitive and the whitening even more so.(We comment upon this restoration in a separate Tip under Local Customs). Here are some views of the stories.
The church has a three part interior of a nave and side aisle that are the same height as the nave (a hall church). There are shallow transepts with windows and above the crossing is a two level tower. The first striking feature is that the church has been white-washed with all the grouting essentially carefully delineated in a rich brown color. This conceit is also carried out in the chiseling of the numerous capitals to be seen in the east end. The vaulting of the aisles is barrel-type and of the nave of the basket-handle variation. The chevet reveals a set of 5 capital topped arched columns that separate the choir and ambulatory. Above this arcade is another similar set of 7 as a blind triforium with narrower arches. This ends in a higher wall and 3 small windows capped by a slightly curved vaulting. The altar area is narrow. The crossing is reinforced by extra columns that fasten to heavy piers by sculpted consoles and support the great arches.
It took about a full century to build the church of St.-Pierre. They started at the apse and completely stone vaulted the church. It is tall and narrow like the one at Cluny. This was the period of awakening of sculpture and fresco wall painting. The former is quite evident both outside the church and inside. The facade is pain with receding columned arches as jambs.The small capitals on the columns are foliated. A horizontal band divides the facade offsetting the buttresses. Along its lower edge are carved modillons which also appear along the roof edges of the three radial apse chapels. On the axial chapel, a primitive bas-relief of St. Peter is placed.
The capitals of the blind wall arcades are more fanciful, less violent , simpler than those in the choir and use the corners as structural aids (done by assistants?).