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Apse from the East

I am going to quote from a book called Ways of Aquitaine by Freda White. Its a brilliant little book that I found in a charity shop. She has a great way of writing and certainly will call a spade a spade. Anyway, this is her on the church at Aulnay.

there is one place which is essential to seek, and that is Aulnay. This has the most beautiful church in the whole of Charente-many would say in the whole of South-West France. I should not go so far as that;but it comes very high in any list. And what is especially enjoyable about it is that Aulnay is not a great city, and its church is not a cathedral, but a small town with the perfect town church……. Aulnay marks the point where Romanesque architecture of Poitou and Saintonge reached its sumit. It is set in a big churchyard outside the town, so that the total grace of the building crowned by its spire its slightness repeated by cypress trees, is visible. The actuall spire is Gothic but the rest of the church is Romanesque. 

She then goes on to describe in detail the architecture of the church but here is one further passage that I particularly like.

When you draw near to the apse, you see the rarest single beauty of many: the bands of interlaced carving on either side and below the east window. This is of great delicacy, the work of a master. The same hand carved the pillar of the east end and the chapels, and I think the south door, but at some point of the sculptures of the exterior another carver began to take over, and the interior carving is clearly the work of another man; it is larger in scale and much simpler in design.

She devotes two and a half pages to Aulnay, far more than any other church. Finally she says.

First and last, Aulnay owes its excellence to its proportion. This is a grace so rare, and so inexplicable that it is impossible to analyse. Of course every architect intends to make a beautifully proprtioned structure, each time he designs a building. Yet it seems as though sometimes a blest accident happens, and the builder looks at his work and knows that it is even better than his dream.

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