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The Chapel of Saint Martin

One of the most beautiful Romanesque church of the Périgord, Saint-Martin is distinguished for its frescoes and its dedication stone - the purity and touching simplicity of the style encourages quiet contemplation, and its structure combines both the strength and aspiration of the Roman style. Key architectural points to note are :

- the simplicity of the west facade with its round-arched doorway
- the austerity of the nave, the massive walls with their tiny openings, supported by buttresses
- the dome standing on strong pillars
- barrel - vaulted arches and oven-shaped vault over the apse
- simple decorative features

Saint-Martin encapsulates the essence of the Roman style in the Périgord - simplicity, strength and delicacy.

> Important dates in the history of Saint-Martin

Important dates in the history of Saint-Martin

1194: "Richard King of England holds the Duchy of Aquitaine"

These words, engraved on the dedication stone, on the left as you enter the church, underline the powerful domination of the English in the Périgord at the end of the 12th century, since Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine, had married Henry II, Plantaganet King of England. Richard 'the Lionheart', their rebel son, inherited the Duchy, and under his influence, the church was dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered, allegedly upon the orders of Henry II, Richard's father. The Abbey at Cadouin, which was responsible for the construction of the church, added the name 'Saint-Martin'. But why did they build a second church in Limeuil, standing alone in the valley? In the Middle Ages Limeuil was the most populated town between Bergerac and Sarlat, an important trading crossroads on the two rivers. This gave rise to the need for a second church, accessible to the boatmen, which was therefore built in the valley in a location above flood level, and on a route to Compostella. It became the parish church in 1276.

1791: "A victim of the French Revolution"

For the revolutionaries, there could be only one parish church - and that was to be Saint Catherine's, up at the top of the village, close to the Presbytery which housed the public records. Saint-Martin was sold at auction as national property and fell into neglect. The dedication stone was taken to Saint Catherine's.

1841: "Saved by the Bell!"

Since 1780 Saint-Martin possessed a magnificent bell, known in the region for its ability to ward off storms and hail, the great destroyers of crops. Saint Catherine, lacking its own bell, laid claim to that of Saint-Martin, and the village even demanded the destruction of the chapel in order to build the cemetary walls. The village community was torn apart! After much discussion, a royal decree in favour of Saint -Martin allowed it to keep its precious bell, the dedication stone was returned in 1856, but it came back broken into three pieces.

1905: "Historical classification saves the day"

By the end of the 19th century, Limeuil had lost its importance - the railway had arrived, replacing the river as a means of transport and trade. The village began to decline, and the parish did not have the means to maintain two churches. The chapel fell into ruin as congregation numbers fell away. On this occasion, however, it was the dedication stone that saved the chapel. Because of its historic value, it was classified in 1905; in 1944 the whole building was registered, and then finally in 1965 it was classified as an Historic Monument, following the rediscovery of the 14th century frescoes, exposed when the plaster covering them was removed.

1966: "Renaissance of Saint Martin's"

The 'Friends of Saint-Martin' association was created by a group of brave volunteers, who revived the chapel from its ruins and partly financed the restoration work with the backing of the chief architect of the Department of Historic Monuments. They brought the place alive with a high-quality festival of classical music. Saint -Martin was reborn, and church services restarted. 40 years on, their successors continue to maintain the structure and carry out restoration projects, as well as organising the summer concerts.

The association always has need of enthusiastic helpers - do not hesitate to contact them, whether to make a donation, offer help, or just for information.....

Les amis de Saint-Martin :
Jean-Claude STEPHAN :
Stéphane NININ :
The church is open to the public every day, and an explanatory guide is available.
Regards portés sur Limeuil - Michel Dartenset

The bell tower of Saint-Martin's

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