Belpech, a village to discover
From yesteryears to nowadays, what a history…
Nowadays, the church is made of three parts : the roman-style bell-gable, the courtyard in which you are, and the monumental XIVth century gothic building.
The early church : Saint-Michael
Built in bricks like the bell-gable, the 1162 church was no larger than the latter. Considered too small, it was expanded one and a half century later, starting in 1312. The new church was laid out as an extension to the original building, of which only the remarkable roman portal and bell-gable remain.
Violet-le-Duc noted the architectural quality of the roman portal during his visit in 1855. Designated a “classical Romanesque building”, the portal was restored in 1900 and Grade II-listed in 1906.
Note the absence of tympanum, the multiple archivolts and the columns lodged in the corbelling. When one observes the details of the frieze, the following elements can be seen from left to right: Saint Peter, the surrendering of the keys to the Apostle, and the figure of Saint Saturnin. On the capitals, a Romanesque bestiary typical of the period, as well as knights. The cornice is supported by 16 bracket-corbels sculpted to resemble human heads.
At the beginning of the XIVth century, considerable extension and building work started on the church: the “pech” underneath the castle was excavated. Nestled in the hollow was the new church, with its ten side-chapels. Around the end of the XVth century, or early in the XVIth, an eleventh chapel was built to the left of the choir: the Holy Sepulchre chapel with its odd pentagonal lay-out and Entombment scene.
For a long time, the new church remained unfinished and without a vault. It was covered by a simple, temporary wooden frame. The frame collapsed in 1636 due to pour maintenance, taking the organ with it. It was only replaced in 1657. During the XIXth century, several works were carried out to consolidate the frame and the church was finally complete with vault and stained-glass windows.
The church is dedicated to saint Saturnin, first bishop of Toulouse, also known as saint Sernin. Several architectural and iconographic similarities can be noted between Belpech’s church and Toulouse’s Saint-Sernin Basilica.
Thanks to L. and T. Guillosson
Check it out…
The keystones : one of them bears the Belpech coat of arms (14).
The XVIIIth century cartouche depicting the martyrdom of saint Sernin : a remnant of the old altar, it was preserved above the sacristy’s door (4).
The imposing wooden pulpit dates from the XIXth century.
A number of elements are Grade II-listed. In particular :
The escutcheon bearing the town’s arms on the gothic church foundation stone, behind the altar (7).
The XVIth century wrought iron grille, similar to that of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse (8).
The church monument dedicated to Jean de Cojordan (XIVth century), from Belpech. First a chaplain for Benedict XII, the pope named him to the Avignon bishopric in 1336. Clément VI transferred him to Mirepoix in 1349, where he died in 1361. He was buried in the Saint-Magdalen chapel of the Belpech church, underneath an exedra bearing his coat of arms. The sarcophagus as well as the dais following the pillow, are made of white marble (2).
The late XVth century painted wooden panels, called “the Boulbonnians” (13).
The XVIIIth century wrought iron Eucharistic table (15).
The genealogy of Christ, a gothic period sandstone bas-relief (12).
The sculpted cross, from the Oratory Plaza, dating from the XIVth century (3)