Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe (1983)

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Known as the 'Romanesque Sistine Chapel', the Abbey-Church of Saint-Savin contains many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation. 

After Germigny-des-Prés, the oldest church still standing in France, renowned for its in comparable Byzantine mosaics, was built the Abbey of Saint-Savin-sur Gartempe  which can boast of having the largest Romanesque frescoes of Europe. For Germigny we have precise details about the date of the building and its architect. 

About the origins of Saint-Savin, we know very little. In the days of Charlemagne, on that very location, the bodies of two martyrs, Savin and Cyprian, persecuted in the fifth century, were discovered under miraculous circumstances by Baidilius, Abbot of Marmoutier. 

  • France 1969. Church of Saint-Savin (in the department of Vienne). 

France 1969. Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe (Vienne)

Baidilius ordered a church built to shelter the holy remains. By coincidence it seems, Charlemagne decided to have a castle erected next to the sanctuary. Saint-Savin played an important role during this time of monastic renewal. Thanks to a grave discovered in the 18th century in the ground of the parish church of Saint-Savin, we know that one of the first Abbots was Fr. Dodon, who died on June 4, 853, at the age of almost 90, who "governed this monastery for some 30 years."

Because the abbey was sheltered by the castle, it escaped pillage from the Viking raids. Sometime between the end of the 9th century and the 10th century, the remains of many saints were brought to Saint-Savin for safekeeping, buried together, and soon forgotten. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage Sites in France (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, section France for further information on the individual properties.  

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Revised 09 sep 2007  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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