Located on top of the Cornadore mount, the church of Saint-Nectaire is considered as one of the greatest building of roman art in Auvergne. Admirers can appreciate the perfect balance of its architecture and the beauty of the lava stone. Inside, polychromes capitals are a good witness of this fantastic area.
Built in a single stage during the 12th century, possibly even the 11th, Notre Dame du Mont-Cornadore is a church of modest dimensions. Yet it has something of a monumental nature, thanks to its location overlooking the entire valley. It is built in 2 volcanic materials: trachyte lava stone and porous tuff. By alternating dark and light-coloured stones, the builders were able to create mosaic patterns, particularly in the harmonious chevet which is absolutely divine!
The layout of Saint-Nectaire Church is a fairly typical example of Romanesque art in Auvergne: twin towers at the front, a narthex (entrance), a 5-bay nave, two side aisles, a transept with oriented chapels and the chevet with an ambulatory chapel and three radiating chapels.
Did you know...?
The church was entirely renovated between 2002 and 2009. The previously bare interior walls were painted and the nave was brightened up with colour as in the original construction. For this stunning restoration, the choice of hues was inspired by traces of colour found during the renovation work!
The church of Saint-Nectaire is famous for its treasure and its polychromatic capitals. The paintings on these capitals were an open book that followers could study like a monumental bible. One of the chancel capitals, for example, illustrates the story of Saint-Nectaire, a local evangelist.
The most remarkable item of treasure is the bust reliquary of Saint-Baudime, the companion of Saint-Nectaire. Dating from the 12th century, it is made of wood covered in copper and gold. Other treasures, on display in the church all year round, include a 12th-century Virgin in Glory, some binding covers and an arm-shaped reliquary of Saint Nectaire.
The embossed brass bust of Saint Baudime is an international star! Between 2010 and 2011, it travelled to Baltimore and Cleveland in the USA and to the British Museum in London to be displayed at major exhibitions of treasures from the Middle Ages. But that wasn’t the end of its adventures. On 25th May 1907, it was stolen by the Thomas brothers, famous pillagers of religious art. The bust was first hidden in a hole in a rock before ending up in a cellar where it was found a few months later, in good condition but stripped of its gemstones.
The church of Saint-Nectaire can be visited at any time of year, so don’t hesitate! Guided tours are organised during the summer season.
To find out more, a booklet on Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Cornadore is on sale at the church and in certain shops in Saint-Nectaire.
You can also visit the church on the occasion of one of the many concerts performed there in summer, or during the Romanesque days when all the chairs are removed from the nave. On the evening of 15th August, the church is the star of the show during a fireworks display that lights up its towers!