Foundation, legend and history of the church of Canac

Today simple hamlet of Campagnac , the site of Canac was occupied as relay, as of the Gallo-Roman time . We are here on the path that unites the Gabale Country to the Ruthene Country via the Serre Valley . Aveyron Romanesque Church Little is known about the origins of the first priory which was created in Canac. According to tradition, a Saracen chief would have settled in the 8th century, taking tithes and income. One of these descendants, called “ L e Sarrazin ”, converted and made the church of Canac at the Abbey of Conques and its outbuilding, Campagnac.
Several texts from the cartulary of Conques mention the relations established between the great Benedictine abbey of Sainte-Foy and the priory of Canac which will later be united with the priory of Persia in Espalion. The Priory of Canac then becomes the matrix of the parish and remains its seat until the 16th century, the church of Campagnac having neither cemetery nor baptismal font . The building, rebuilt in the 11th and 12th century, then transformed by history, is remarkable for the affixing of 2 successive Romanesque periods (11th and 12th century) and 2 local schools . The apse and the heart are primitive and attached to the Gorges du Tarn school , the most representative examples of which are the church of Liaucous and Mostuéjouls. The nave and the porch are characteristic of the school of the Lot Valley , of which the church of Persia commune of Espalion is a majestic witness. The church of Canac is placed under the patronage of Saint-Cyr and Saint Julitte , martyred around 303 in Caesarea in Cappadocia. In addition to the beauty and serenity of the site and the golden shards of limestone in the heart of lush vegetation, one will notice, outside, the sober decor of the easel cornice made up of the alternation of solids and voids and the succession of arcades supporting limestone slate roofs. To the north and south we will observe the presence of an enfeux. To the west, decorative elements from the Romanesque period remain under the porch, and above, in the central arcade, you can see an interesting series of capitals.

The 11th century and the Benedictines of Conques

In the 11th century, the Benedictines of Conques built the apse of the church on a plan including:

  • 1 pentagonal apse adorned with a very simple, slightly projecting arcade and a decorative frieze (alternating voids and. the apse is pentagonal, then becomes curvilinear at the level of the cornice . The angles of the pentagon are decorated with columns whose capitals and corbels are cut in dihedral, to support the interior arcature. The apse extends, towards the west by a kind of primitive " square of transept " open on the apsidioles , the choir and the nave by horseshoe arches. False squinches make it possible to attach the square to generate a dome of an empirical design.
  • 2 apses with 3 very simple sides , slightly curvilinear. These apses, according to the few vestiges remaining on the south side, must have been almost identical. Only North absidiole remains. The church will not be completed but temporarily closed by a wooden palisade whose engravings are still visible in the supports of the triumphal arch. The set is to be compared to the churches of the Tarn and Dourbie valley , in particular the churches of Cantobre, Verrière, Mostuéjouls, La Roque-Sainte-Marguerite...

In the 12th century, reconstruction of a new building

In the 12th century, no doubt for economic reasons, the construction of a new building was undertaken , while the 11th century chevet was temporarily preserved. Benedictines of Conques The construction began with the western portal , arranged in a sort of narthex forming a gallery on the first floor , and continuing through the nave. Its axis, due east, is offset from the initial axis of the apse by a few degrees.
The construction here responds to the canon of architecture implemented in the Lot valley : column engaged on plinth and base…
A window (first bay after the porch) has retained the elegance of its original proportions. There is no certainty that this nave was completed with its vault. On the other hand, the reconstruction program of the choir was abandoned . One will note in the party adopted in the nave, the creation of a square span (the last before the heart of the 11th century) intended, undoubtedly, to become square of the transept. From this campaign of works, we will still note the presence of 2 remarkable stones .

One of these stones, the stone of the altar of the heart, bears the inscription in Roman letters:
This inscription bears witness to the dedication of the altar.

Another stone , also from the Romanesque period, was sealed under the window of the North chapel. It represents a succession of 3 arcades. Are also represented, a sun, a star and the moon as well as inscriptions :
"RE GI NA CE LI" and above: " S . IOAE"
No doubt these symbols should be seen as an invocation of the Virgin Queen of Heaven, described in the Apocalypse of Saint John, crowned with stars, the moon under her feet. The Church of Persia, to which Canac was united, bears in its tympanum a representation of the crowned Virgin, surrounded by the Moon and the Sun.

The Gothic period, the wars of religion, and the 18th century

During the Gothic period , for unknown reasons, the South-East apse was demolished and replaced by an almost rectangular chapel inside which there are several niches with carved decorations. Roman portal in Aveyron Church of Canac
A little later, will be opened on both sides of the nave, chapels forming transept. That of the North will be backed by crypts for the burial of illustrious families. The South chapel is remarkable for its coat of arms key and the presence of acoustic pottery . This chapel was founded in the 11th century by the Jory family.
At the time of the wars of religion , tradition reports that Calvinist troops would be relentless on Canac , after having come up against the defenses of Campagnac. It could be on this occasion that the vaults and coverings of the nave were ruined. From now on, the nave will be covered , at the level of the capitals, with a heavy frame supporting a limestone slate roof , a wooden paneling and latticework forming the ceiling below. The building does not seem to benefit from work during the 17th and 18th centuries. The population imbalance now militates in favor of Campagnac . The state of the diocese in 1771 shows a parish population of 12,192 inhabitants including 718 for Campagnac alone.

The Revolution and today

The Revolution marks a period of abandonment . The maintenance of the covers is no longer carried out regularly. The council of Fabrique and the parish priest will call for urgent safeguard and restoration measures.
In 1888, the condition of the roofs of the nave was such that people feared for the safety of the faithful. The architect Henri Pons is studying a restoration project including:

  • the “ restitution ” of the western façade
  • the removal of the framework and covering of the nave
  • the restoration of the capitals and transverse arches of the nave
  • the raising of gutter walls
  • the creation of a brick vault
  • the creation of a new frame with slate roofing

To this program is added an interior restoration including the creation of new openings , campagnac romanesque church enlargement of most of the existing bays…
Around 1922 , other work will be undertaken: plasterwork and marble altar in the choir, brick linings, closing of the sacristy and the narthex, leveling of the floors and cementing.
The humidity of the site and the concrete of the floors having led to a strong deterioration of the facings, scouts dug the walls in the 70s ...
With the joint help of the municipality, the department and the State (Service des Bâtiments de France) work was undertaken from 1987. The facings were restored, the floors restored to their original level and the various additions removed to give the building a more authentic appearance .

-Texts of the Association " Living in Campagnac and its Hamlets "-

find out more about Campagnac and its region:
Campagnac Town Hall
Tourist Office of the Causses in Aubrac
Community of Communes of the Causses in Aubrac

Leave a comment

Comments are approved before publication.