In the heart of the village of Villeneuve d'Aveyron, discover a remarkable monument, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Do not miss to observe its XNUMXth century murals.
Villeneuve church, a remarkable monument
Changes and additions over the centuries have not altered the sober elegance of its architecture : the quality of the material used explains this success. Its octagonal bell tower, from the XNUMXth century, dominates the roofs of the Rescued.
The clock tower, also built at the end of the XNUMXth century, lower, completes the building. For centuries, pastoral life was punctuated by the bells and carillon of the tower. All around Villeneuve, wherever you are on the Causse, you can see the spire of the bell tower, added in the XNUMXth century, and the Saint Michel tower which serve as a landmark.
The plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher of Villeneuve is that of the basilica of Jerusalem built around the tomb of Christ in the XNUMXth century: a circular portico, around the tomb and four apses oriented towards the four cardinal points.
The entrance porch, to the west, is surmounted by a semicircular arch and has no tympanum. As soon as one enters the narthex, a vestibule reserved for foreigners to the monastery, the plan of the original church is clearly visible. Two apses revolve around a ribbed dome, supported by four massive columns. The chapel, on the north side, is that of the Holy Sepulcher which will later be decorated with paintings in the XNUMXth century.
On the south side, the chapel of the dead opened onto the cloister, now destroyed, and allowed the monks direct access to the offices. The last apse was destroyed to allow the extension of the church in the XNUMXth century. A gallery is located above the narthex.
The Church of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Paul prolongs the primitive church. It is a long Gothic nave with a single span, in the Languedoc style. Its five-sided apse is lit by five large windows. The contemporary stained glass, luminous and sober, fit perfectly into the choir. They represent Christ surrounded by his two apostles, Peter and Paul, patron saints of the parish. In the choir, we notice the stalls, in napkin folds, from the XNUMXth century.
The Christ is also from the XNUMXth century. The altar, in gilded wood, is from the XNUMXth century. Six chapels, built for notables, are located on either side of the nave. Particularly noteworthy, in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy, a XNUMXth century entombment painted by the master Agar.
The murals – On the way to Santiago de Compostela
Since the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the Romanesque chapel of the Holy Sepulcher has been decorated with paintings inspired by the theme of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. They situate Villeneuve as a stopover on the way to Compostela.
At the top, in the center, the Christ in Majesty, sits on a throne and blesses with his right hand. His gesture is addressed to all and no faithful are represented. Christ is part of a Gothic mandorla and behind him, white buildings with ocher roofs simulate a city… Tiny angels, the symbols of the tetramorph are represented around Christ as well as the apostles, their heads encircled by a medallion.
Lower, but on several levels, scenes of pilgrimage. You have to follow them from left to right. We recognize the attributes of the "backgammons": the hat with raised edges, decorated with a shell and the staff, (the iron stick on which the pilgrim leans and which is used to defend him from brigands or wolves), a gourd , a purse, a leather satchel and, to face the bad weather, the cape.
At the median level, on either side of the Romanesque window, we discover the representation of a famous legend, widespread in Europe from the XNUMXth century: the miracle of the “hanged man”.
The Miracle of the Dependent Hangman
A couple of pilgrims were going to Compostela with their son, a handsome teenager. In Santo Domingo de la Calzada, they stopped at an inn. The servant fell in love with the handsome blond young man who rejected her advances. In revenge, she slipped a silver cup into her bag. On his denunciation, the innkeeper had the trio of pilgrims pursued.
The cup was actually found in the teenager's saddlebag, and he was condemned to be hanged. The unfortunate parents continued their pilgrimage. Returning from Compostela, they passed again at the foot of the gallows where their child had been hung. What was their wonder to discover him, still hanged, but very much alive! Saint Jacques had supported him during these fifteen days to spare him an unjust death!
The parents ran to the judge to tell him of the miracle and obtain the release of their innocent son. But the incredulous judge declared that he would only believe in the miracle if the poultry being roasted for his meal began to sing. Saint Jacques was not stingy with miracles to defend his young devotee: the fowl began to jump on the table and toss a loud croaking noise three times. Faced with the evidence of the miracle, the young man was exonerated, the servant seized and hanged. And the glory of Saint James was celebrated by all the pilgrims and this story spread throughout all of Christendom.