Let's discover an enigmatic place in Villeneuve d'Aveyron! Visigothic past, pre-Romanesque heritage… the guided tour of the church of Toulongergues has many surprises in store for us.
It's an understatement to say that visiting the Toulongergues church takes me back to my childhood... The last time I saw the site, I was 13, and it was a barn! What a long way to restore the building to its former glory!
A pre-Romanesque church on the Villeneuve plateau
After having taken the beautiful little Caussenard roads coming from Villefranche-de-Rouergue, via Saint-Rémy, we arrive at the hamlet of Toulongergues. Hidden at the bend of a path, the church faces us with its beautiful light stones, its brown tiles and its limestone slates. We are the first. While waiting for the guide, we go down to the wash house, a few meters lower. Dry stone walls, oak trees, large dovecote… the landscapes that surround us add charm to the place. Here, there is no doubt: we are on the causes !
Start of the guided tour: a thousand-year-old history
Ludovic, our guide, joins our small group to begin the visit. In the shade of a large oak tree where a slight draft is felt, we listen to his introduction. He introduces us to the region, its geological features and its history. We discover that this site succeeds several places of worship built much earlier by Man! In the middle of nature, his comment plunges us into the era of the Visigoths, people who occupied the whole region from the fall of the Roman Empire, and of whom we hardly ever speak.
It is from there that it begins the history of the church of Toulongergues, built on an ancient spring. Ludovic tells us about these astonishing buildings “with rounded corners and a flat bed” as the specialists say, which dot the Rouergat territory, along the Villefranche-de-Rouergue fault. Most have disappeared, some are still standing and only one has painted and sculpted decorations : the church of Tolongergues! In particular, we don't see “overstepped” or “keyhole” arches, as in Islamic architecture: exceptional! At the bedside of the church, I feel like I'm losing my mind. It seemed to me that there was a large door, but this one no longer exists. The adjoining prior's accommodation, which was in ruins in the early 1990s, has regained all its riches. Ludovic explains to us that it was the owner of the place who brought it back to life. Congratulations Mr. Poujade for your work!
A mysterious building
We enter the church, a small privilege since it is only accessible by guided tour. And there, surprise, I am amazed by the evolution that the building has known since my childhood! I remembered a stable with the animals, the stone troughs to feed them, the bundles of wood, the low ceiling above which the nuts were dried... And in reality, I was in a church, as it was in its infancy! Its shape and its height astonish me singularly. Ludovic takes the time to explain to us all its specificities, its transformations over the centuries and its decor: majestic! Older than 1 years, the building retains magnificent traces of polychromy. From the representation of the evangelists to that of the Virgin on her deathbed, including the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham and the astonishing hetimasia, the settings are revealed to us through the comments of our guide.
This guided tour reveals the unsuspected richness of the place. I would never have believed that a building, so modest on the outside, could deliver so many elements while knowing that it retains a great deal of mystery...
Want to take this guided tour?
To enter the church of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul de Toulongergues, it is necessary to follow a guided tour. These are offered by the tourist office during spring, summer and autumn holidays as well as on the occasion of European Heritage Days.