In Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in the Corrèze department of France, one of the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’. The centre of the town is dominated by the Abbey Church of Saint-Pierre, which was completed in 1140.

Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne alongside the river Dordogne

Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

The portal on the south façade of the church has a magnificent tympanum which depicts the Parousia – the second coming of Christ on Earth. The tympanum is divided into three registers. The lower register contains depictions of exotic animals which symbolise the deadly sins of anger, pride and envy. The middle register depicts Hell, into which the characters on the upper register risk being thrown if they are not judged worthy of Paradise. The upper register is dominated by a two-metre carving of Christ, his arms spread in the form of a cross. He is flanked by the twelve Apostles, while angels above him carry the crown and nails. Meanwhile, other angels sound the trumpet to summon up the dead.

Tympanum, Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

There are further carvings either side of the entrance porch, with scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. On the left are episodes from the Life of Daniel, whilst on the right are Temptations of Christ.

Porch carvings, Abbatiale Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

Inside the church, its treasure is exhibited in the north transept. It consists of a statue of the Virgin and Child in wood covered with silver from the twelfth century, a reliquary lantern dating from the eleventh century, a thirteenth-century enamelled shrine depicting the journey of the Three Magi, and two silver reliquary arms from the thirteenthth century, those of Sainte-Félicité and Saint-Emilion.

Virgin and Child, Abbatiale Saint-Pierre, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

Enamelled shrine depicting the journey of the Three Magi (thirteenth century)

The abbey was the subject of attacks during both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion, resulting in the monks eventually fleeing in 1574. In 1663 it was taken over by the French Benedictine community which restored it. However, it was definitively abandoned during the Revolution, when it became the parish church.

Beaulieu’s original parish church was built in the twelfth century, near the upper port where the river barges stopped. However, it was sold during the Revolution, when its function was transferred to the abbey church. It was purchased by the Brotherhood of Blue Penitents in 1820 and became the seat of the brotherhood until 1870.

Chapel of the Penitents, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

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