After hours of looking up at the frescoes in the Abbey of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, in Saint-Savin, France, we were developing a serious case of Fresco Neck™. (Fresco Neck™ is my trademarked diagnosis of the neck cramping and fatigue resulting from chronic fresco, mosaic, and stained glass viewing). Let me assure you, it was worth it. These frescoes, from around 1100, are delightful. UNESCO calls the cycle “the Romanesque Sistine Chapel” and in the main vault they tell stories from the Hebrew Bible, from Creation to the story of Moses. A separate cycle in the porch has scenes from Revelations. The crypt paintings, of the martyrdom of Saints Savin and Cyprian were closed (grrrrrrrrr).
To prevent further Fresco Neck™ we lay on our backs on the abbey’s pews and studied all the frescoes. The frescoes are not in the expected order, meant to be read from left to right–the scenes jump around and take concentration to understand. After a quick break that involved undignified horsing around with the topiary in the abbey’s garden, we ate leftover tourteau fromager. We returned with a printed guide from the nearby abbey gift shop, and again lay side by side on the pews, passing the binoculars back and forth until the church closed. Some women like gifts that come in robin’s egg blue bags–this is all the romance I need.
How we got to Saint-Savin: bus from Poitiers.
Where we slept: Hotel de l’abbaye. Price: €35.50 for a double. Recommended: yes (fortunate, since this is the only hotel in Saint-Savin.)
Construction of the Tower of Babel. The architect of the tower can be seen on the upper right in the tower, holding a set square in one hand and grabbing a block with another. Behind him is the mason, pulling up a bucket of mortar that has been raised up to him by a trestle.
Noah’s story, including Noah’s ark
This is supposed to be Abraham’s story. Some guy is climbing a Dr. Seuss tree, and the people to the right of him are excited and making jazz hands.
View of Saint-Savin-Sur-Gartempe from our hotel room. It’s the oldest hall church in the Poitou region, mainly built from 1060 – 1115.
Your classy travel blogger enjoying the topiary in the abbey’s garden.