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Saulge through the years
The Church of Saint Divitien and Sainte Radegonde
It is dedicated to Saint Divitien, a person of whom very little is known, but who no doubt formed part of the entourage of Sainte Radegonde in the XI Century. In 1090 Saulge had a Priory that belonged to the Abbey of Bourg-Dieu at Deols (Indre). We don't know whether the Priory was the old chapel that is now a private dwelling or the actual parish church. The church has had many alterations over the years and the nave would have originally been timbered. The vaulted ceiling is more modern. The chancel is Gothic. The octagonal bell tower is decorated with arches but they are partly hidden by the higher roof that was added in the XIX century.
XIIème siècle - Stone capitals.
This stone carving which is to be found above the door leading onto "La Place du Prieure" portrays a naked person, symbolising a soul. Inscribed on a tablet held by two angels are the words "Ranulfus ad astra nobi (lis a) gnetis proles" - Ranulf a descendant of Agnes raised to the stars. This Lord of Montmorillon, a benefactor to the Maison Dieu in Montmorillon, was in all likelihood a very pious man and his contemporaries were sanctifying him by portraying him in this way. For a long time considered holy and reserved for divinities, this almond shaped tablet was used for very important religious people from the XII Century. In spite of its present condition the sculpted stone shows a high quality of workmanship - the angels wings and draped clothing - the style of which can also be seen in the frieze of Christ's childhood in the church of Saint Laurent in Montmorillon.
1728 – Bronze.
Of the three bronze bells in the belfry, the oldest dates from 1728 and was restored in 2000. A crucifixion and a Virgin with child decorate its lower area and on the upper part an inscription blessing is legible. « L'an 1728 iay este benitte par Mre Jean Borde prestre et cure de Sauge et il étoit escri sur l’ancienne cloche lesus Sancta Maria Ora Pro Nobis que Melchior de Blon seigneur de Beaupuis fondateur en 1622 et iay pour parrain Mre Silvain Chevalier S.G.R. de Beaupuy et Sauge et iay pour maraine damoiselle Anne Fricon. ». This tells us that the bell was made in 1728, that the priest of the church was Mre Jean Borde, that he blessed the bell and that it was sponsored by Mre Silvain Chevalier S.G.R. of Beaupuy and Saulge and also by Damoiselle Anne Fricon. The signature reads made by ioseph iacob poincarez.
Polychromed walnut statue - Post 1870.
Sainte Radegonde was the patron Saint of the Poitou region and venerated in a large number of parishes. In particular here in the church of Saint Divitien, if tradition is to be believed, there was a strong friendship between the two saints in the Merovingian era. The statue was carved by a local carpenter, Philippon, after the war in 1870. A woman from the parish had promised to give a statue to the church in thanksgiving for the safe return of her son from the war. As there was not an actual sculptor in Saulge, the young carpenter was asked to carve the statue, and he did so giving her the attributes of both a queen and a religious person. It is carved from a single piece of walnut and the polychrome finish was done in Montmorillon.
Frescoes - XIX Century.
Built on a roman transept, the chancel was rebuilt in the XIII Century to a square design. During the period of 1849 - 1880 under the episcopacy of Mgr Pie, the frescoes were painted throughout the church. Painted onto a background of white distemper, the geometric friezes were painted on the walls, and square patterns painted on the pillars. Liturgical instruments and religious symbols can also be found amongst the patterns and shapes which give structure to the interior of the church.
This painting hangs on the south wall of the transept above the altar. It is an oil on canvas by the copy artist Savignac. The work of art which was painted around 1850 - 1860 was given to the parish of Saulge in 1861 by the Emperor Napoleon III. This gift shows the Emperors' interest in art, but above all the political context of the time, when it was very important for the sovereign to retain the favour of the church so he could rule without incident. Other comparable paintings, given in a similar vein, can be seen locally in the churches of Notre Dame in Montmorillon and Saint Maximin in Magnac Laval.
The painting that hangs in the church at Saulge is a copy of a work by Pierre-Paul Rubens which can be seen in the Louvre Museum in Paris. As in Rubens' painting, the Virgin Mary is standing to the left of the picture, presenting the infant Jesus to the Kings from the East, who are offering their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The light, as in the original, shines onto the people and in particular Jesus and the Virgin Mary, leaving the rest of the composition in mysterious shadow, giving importance to the key elements and giving it an intimate atmosphere.
The painting was restored in 2013 in conjunction with the Fondation de Patrimoine. Public donations were given to help fund the restoration.
XII Century - Stone capitals.
The two capitals in the old part of the church (or Priory) show very detailed carvings of the Temptation of Christ. The stone masons have united in a single scene on each pillar, two extracts taken from the Gospel of Luke (ch IV vv 1-13) and the other from the Gospel of Matthew (ch IV vv 1-11). On the first, the devil caricatured as a hunchback, tempts Christ to turn a stone into bread and then tempts Christ to throw himself into the void to prove his Divinity. Christ is depicted twice on the corner carvings and rejects the temptor. On the second, the apostle St Peter is seen on the corners. On one side he is in prison being watched by two soldiers and an angel is telling him to get dressed. On the other side he is being led by the angel. There are texts which explain the scenes. The work can be dated back to the first half of the XII Century and other work can be seen by these masons in the Bas Limousin in Vigeois and Lubersac.