Louis the Pious (814-840)
Second Issue - after 818-9
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A Visitor's Guide to Carolingian
V: Aquitaine, Perigord and Neighbors
Home page (and contact info) Carolingian
coins Visitor's Guide Home Page
Astier: Eglise St. Martin
The church is 9th to 12th century. The 9th
century part is the octagonal tower at one end. The design was inspired
by Charlemagne's church in Aachen. The church stands along outside the
village and the key is available at a neighboring farm. The loggia
structure is of uncertain purpose. One suggestion is that it was
defensive, another was that it was able to hold a fire to light a
pilgrim route. There are three windows in the church and they may have
been tied to the solstice. The tower is not integrated into the later
construction and the on site guide says this is unique in France. The
nave is 12th century and of poorer quality stone, whereas the the 9th
century ceiling is a stone cupola. The church has nice acoustics.
Fenioux is a very small community, actually a hamlet, N of Bordeaux, N of Saintes, 8 km S of St. Jean d'Angely. It is just E of the A10.
the abbey of St. Martin
The abbey of St. Martin is both promising but frustrating. This is largely a pre Carolingian site. The crypt above right dates from the 7th C, as do the floor tiles to the left. Unfortunately, these were not available to visit in the fall 2005. The crypt is apparently dangerous and undergoing renovation, with an open date in 2006. There was not much to see. Outside one of the current buildings is a foundation of the early church.
However, the monastery drops out of the historical record during the Carolingian age, from 700 until about 1000. It was not included in Louis the Pious' list of monasteries of 817. Its history is uncertain, although I have seen suggestions that it was destroyed by the Saracen invasion of 732, led by Abd. er Rahman, before he was subsequently defeated by Charles Martel at Moussais north of Poitiers.
The monastery was resurrected during the reign of Hugh Capet by Aumode, wife of William the Great, comte de Poitou. This is a working abbey today, with a very modern (20th C) church. Today the abbey is known for it enamel art.
The abbey is 8 km S of Poitiers on small roads. It is between the N10 and D741.
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AR denier, 22mm, 1.72gr. Obv: +GRATIA
D-I REX, central monogram. Rev: +LIMOVICAS CIVIS, central cross, reversed
'S' in CIVIS. Limoges mint
in Aquitaine. R1697; MG 1332; Dep 14
B1, 511 (1122 examples); MEC 974; not in Bel; Nouchy E24.
The drawing to the left is of the church of St. Martial, as it looked in the middle ages. It is necessary to rely on a drawing since today there is no above ground remnant of the church. The crypt, however, has survived, and is currently under the Place de la Republique in the heart of Limoges. The crypt was rediscovered, with the remains of St. Martial and Ste. Valerie, when the site was excavated to build an underground parking garage in the 1970s. It is entered by a very unpresupposing staircase on one side of the Place.
St. Martial was a contemporary of Gregory of Tours and they traveled together in the 3rd C. By the 6th C. he was buried in Limoges and this became a pilgrimage site. There ultimately came to be built three adjacent churches in the vicinity, with the initial basilica St. Pierre du Sepulcre dating from the 6th C. This is evident in the foundation imprints seen below. To the left, under the text, is the church of St. Martial. To the right are the foundations of the churches of St. Benoit and St. Pierre. If I follow this correctly, St. Pierre came to be built over the original burial site of St. Martial. All are visitable today.
In 848 Charles the Bald granted permission to the abbots here to follow the rule of St. Benoit. Charles' son (Charles the Infant) was crowned king of Aquitaine here in 855. The church burnt in the mid 10th C and was rebuilt in 952. The relics of St. Martial were moved at the end of the 10th century, and returned after people came to believe that a series of disasters in the region were caused by an angry St. Martial. The picture on the left below shows the tomb of St. Martial that dates from this period. The mosaics are distinctive. The picture to the right is a probable 12th C tomb in the St. Beniot/St. Pierre part of the crypt.
In the 11th C the abbey came under Cluniac rule and at the end of the century the church was rebuilt again, after another fire. Jumping ahead, Richard the Lion Hearted was declared duc of Aquitaine at St. Martial. The abbey flourished in the 12th C. but declined after the 100 Years War. It became a secular building in the 16th C. and was finally sold to a demolition firm in 1791. All signs of the abbey were gone by 1806 and the crypts were forgotten.
Limoges is about 400 km S of Paris on the A20.
Melle and Its Carolingian Mines
Pippin II (840-52)
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AR denier, 21mm, 1.61gr. Obv: +PIPINVS REX EQ, central cross in solid circle. Rev: +METVLLO, central Pippin monogram P-IN-S-R. Mint is Melle. R1872, MG 606 as Pippin I or II; Dep 9F1, 615 (33 examples), "les tres grande majorite des monnaies de Pippin II fut frappe entre 845-848 ... Melle fut un atelier tres important." This coin is conservative in design, following Charlemagne's lead with the ruler's name on the obverse and a personal monogram on the reverse. MEC 814. Prou 689.
is the site of the silver mines that were the metal source for
many Carolingian coins. It is possible to visit the galleries and see demonstrations
of early minting techniques. Melle was a wonderfully prolific mint during
the Carolingian era, and equally problematic in the attribution of much
of its output. For example, it is very difficult to separate the Melle
coins of Charles the Bald and Charlemagne, to the chagrin of many collectors.
You can visit the mines
of Melle web site. This image of medieval coin making is from the mine
Melle is about 55 km SSE of Poitiers
on the D950. If you found St. Jean d'Angely, it is to the NW also on the
Poitiers: Baptistery of St. Jean
The Baptistery of St. Jean dates from the 4th C. The building has undergone modification over time. The schematic above, on the left, is the original design. The original baptistery still exists, making this one of, if not the oldest, religious buildings in France. The narthex dates from the 10th C. The top photo is of the back of the building. The semi-circular shape chapel is a 19th C renovation. The photo to the right of the interior shows the entrance and is consistent with the right image on the schematic. The interior of the Baptistery is interesting in terms of the detail of the carving on the capitals, and the actual baptistery font. There is a Merovingian museum with ancient sarcophagi, including an unusual his and hers example. Poitiers is 355 km generally S of Paris on the A10.
Figeac: Hotel de la Monnaies has (I think) a collection of ancient, including Carolingian coins. (Perigord 106, 13th edition, undated). Figeac looks like an attractive medieval city. This image is the restored Hotel de la Monnaies. The city web site is Figeac. Figeac is in the Dordogne which is an attractive area to visit regardless of the tenuous Carolingian connection. There are a number of Cro Magnan caves in the area. It is SE of Rocomadour, the medieval pilgrimage city. It is ENE of Cahors (which itself is E of Bordeaux). Figeac is about 575 km from Paris.
The picture top right shows the approach to the chapels. It a fairly steep downhill grade, and the chapels are off to the left. The second set of pictures shows these Carolingian era vaults, now a part of the castle's foundations. The last picture is a remnant of a fresco found on the wall of the lower vault.
Belcastel is worth the visit. There
is an attractive hotel and (in 2009) a Michelin star restaurant here. There
are also rooms available in the castle.