Pays de la Loire Section
Cunault Abbey Church - Masterpiece Romanesque Architecture
Cunault Abbey Church
Cunault Abbey Church is all that is left of the Benedictine abbey the monks of the Ile de Noirmoutier founded in 847AD after they fled the Norman invasions.
In 862AD, further incursions forced the monks to flee farther away, to Tournus in Burgundy. They took with them the relics of their patron St. Philibert.
They returned to Cunault during the 11th century and built a prosperous priory, which depended from Tournus.
Unfortunately, the abbey was sacked and destroyed during the French Revolution.
The impressive Romanesque belfry, which was enlarged with a stone spire during the 15th century, is all that remains of the original abbey church.
The interior of Notre-Dame de Cunault is quite remarkable, though. It indeed boasts a series of ancient frescoes and a polychrome Pietà.
However, what strikes at first when entering the nave, are the 223 gigantic Gothic Angevin style columns. Not only are they gigantic, but they have exceptional 11th and 12th centuries carved capitals.
Shrine of Saint-Maxenceul
On 8th September of each year, Cunault Abbey Church could easily accommodated regular parishioners but also pilgrims who came from the whole kingdom to attend a major annual pilgrimage!
One of the lateral chapels indeed shelters the shrine of Saint-Maxenceul, the monk who evangelised the region in the 4th century. His unusual multi-coloured walnut shrine was carved and painted during the 13th century.
The church's four bells were recovered from the cathedral of Constantine at the end of the Algerian War.
Cunault Abbey Church was listed Historical Monument in 1846.
The Sunday services are very popular. It is better to arrive early to secure a place.
Cunault Abbey Church is also a venue for Les Heures Musicales de Cunault, an annual musical event that takes place in July-August.
Department of Maine-et-Loire - Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault
Coordinates: Lat 47.329700 - Long -0.200273