Unique in the Dordogne!
I’d been thinking about writing about the white stone Romanesque churches which are scattered around the villages of the Riberac area, and I’d been to the tourist information office to get the leaflet ‘Balade en Terre Romane’ - a map of 40 local churches. Amazingly two days later an opportunity arose to visit the church of Saint-Meard-de- Dronne with a local history group.
We assembled in front of the church on a beautiful sunny day in February, and our guide explained that the second phase of restoration of the church has been completed, and there will be a third phase when money allows.
I’ve always held the belief that churches hold a huge amount of history, regardless of whether you’re religious or not. The Romanesque churches were all founded in the 12th century, and are often quite simple inside and out, so I wasn’t expecting what I saw when I walked through the church door. Our guide had wanted us to enter in natural light to get the original effect, but someone had already switched on the lights. It really didn’t matter.
The Frescoes of Saint-Meard-de-Dronne
Incredibly the entire inside of the church is painted with colourful frescoes depicting biblical stories, and visions of heaven and hell. The first hints of what lay beneath later decoration would have been uncovered by bored choir boys in the gallery scratching the walls with coins during services.
You may be able to recognise some of the stories shown, I recognised The Last Supper, and was particularly impressed with the depiction of hell. It featured 4 devils, one wearing shorts, and the treatment before being ushered in to the jaws of a monster!
These amazing paintings were completed in 1500, and the colours have been well preserved. Sadly we’ll never know what was depicted on some lower sections of wall due to damage caused by rising damp.
Little remains of the Romanesque stone decoration of the church, just some parts of an elaborately decorated column, and 2 stone plaques in the entrance. Two further pieces are being held at the Marie (town hall). Unfortunately a lot would have ended up in the nearby lime kiln as lime was of more use on the fields.
Once the restoration is complete our guide says this church will be unique in the Dordogne and Perigord region, and is likely to become World famous. I haven’t mentioned that Saint- Meard-de-Dronne is the first village along the road from Le Pommier Gites. Visits to the church are possible by arrangement, understandably they’re not leaving it unlocked at the moment.