Eglise de St Georges d'Oléron
Dates & opening times
The history of this village dates back to the Middle Ages, when monks arrived on the island of Oleron to exploit the salt and vineyards. They established the priory of St-Georges. The church's age is attested by a charter dating from May 1040. It was then fortified to serve as a defense and retreat for the inhabitants against pirate incursions.
The present nave and west portal remain from this primitive 11th-century church. This portal, in the saintongeais Romanesque style, is remarkable for its well-preserved plant and geometric motifs on the columns and capitals. If you pay particular attention to the stones damaged by the salty air, you'll discover the presence of "tarasques": fabulous animals straight out of the builders' imaginations.
In the 12th century, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) had the choir and transept built in Plantagenet style.
In 1568, following the Wars of Religion, the church was sacked by the Huguenots, before being restored and enlarged in the 17th century. The local inhabitants rebuilt the ruins of their church and enlarged it in the Renaissance style. The building was made larger, with higher vaults, and the nave was raised. The Latin cross configuration was abandoned, and the side chapels were enlarged. The church took on its present form.
Inside, one is struck by the clarity of the building, unusual in Romanesque churches - whose openings are normally small. There's a fine model of a ship (ex-voto) and a wooden Virgin and Child, whose origin is attributed to a legend that makes her the figurehead of a ship belonging to a Danish prince grateful to the Virgin for saving him from shipwreck.
Note on the outside the traces of an ancient sundial, engraved in stone by Abbé Chaumeuil in 1850. A maxim was inscribed next to it: "We pass through this world like a light shadow, striding towards our final hour".
Since 2019, the recumbent statue of Eleanor of Aquitaine - Duchess of Aquitaine, then Queen of France and England - has been installed inside the church, reminding us that in 1152 she created "Les Rôles d'Oléron", the first maritime codes used throughout Europe.
Eglise de St Georges d'Oléron Rue des dames17190, Saint-Georges-d'OléronFranceItinerary
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