On a valley floor, the small churches of Saint-Martin-la-Vallée in Semur and Mazille inspire contemplation. At the centre of Blanot, the Romanesque church harmoniously juxtaposes the priory house. The giant Lombard campanile mounted in Chapaize, stretching 35 metres upward, can be seen kilometres away. The massive Mont Saint-Vincent church sits so high atop its namesake peak that it even lost its steeple.
These are but a few of the examples illustrating the powerful emotions experienced as you meander across Saône-&-Loire: an extraordinary "Romanesque garden" unfurling before you. And this moniker is not worn lightly: beyond the local "stars" (i.e. Cluny Abbey, Tournus' Saint-Philibert Abbey church, Paray-le-Monial's Sacred Heart Basilica, the Autun Cathedral), Southern Burgundy is home to no fewer than 250 Romanesque churches and chapels awaiting your visit, each of which offering something captivating, remarkable or just plain different.
Feel free to enter them, as they are quite often open to you and your contemplation, and admire their sculpted column capitals, majestic vaults or light-filled stained glass windows. Go one more step and descend into their crypts like in Anzy-le-Duc or Tournus.
Along the Romanesque trails…
The profusion of these Romanesque church and chapel monuments is such that organisation is critical to maximising the number you can admire during your stay. With this in mind, you're invited to follow the Romanesque Trails: 3 loop discovery circuits featuring both outdoor and indoor signs and panels intended for Romanesque architecture buffs (trilingual publications - French, English and German - are available at local Tourist Offices). And to really optimise your experience, don't miss the opportunity to scan the QR codes present at the churches in Anzy-le-Duc, Bois-Sainte-Marie, Châteauneuf, Marcigny and Semur-en-Brionnais with your smartphone: you'll be able to consult detailed explanations and view unique photos of these edifices. For cycling enthusiasts, be sure to take advantage of the daylong Romanesque discovery ride organised through the Brionnais on an electric bike (rentals and itinerary information available at the Paray Tourist Office).
The 3 Romanesque Trail circuits in detail:
- Circuit #1, 110 km long: Paray-le-Monial and Romanesque churches of the Brionnais - 10 major church visits shape this first circuit: Montceaux l'Etoile, Anzy-le-Duc, Baugy, Semur-en-Brionnais, Saint-Julien-de-Jonzy, Iguerande, Châteauneuf, Bois-Saint-Marie, Saint-Germain-en-Brionnais, and Varenne-l'Arconce.
- Circuit #2, 115 km long: Paray-le-Monial and Romanesque churches of the Charolais - With 2 significant churches on this programme: Gourdon and Mont-Saint-Vincent.
- Circuit #3, 120 km long: Paray-le-Monial and Romanesque churches in the western Charolais region. Highlights on this circuit include: Perrecy-les-Forges, Toulon-sur-Arroux, Issy-l'Evêque, and Bourbon-Lancy (the town's St-Nazaire church).
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