Nouvelle Aquitaine Section
St Martin Chapel - Limeuil - Thomas Becket
St. Martin Chapel in Limeuil
St. Martin Chapel is an expiatory chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It is not located in the village of Limeuil, but in the valley along the D31, the road that leads Le Bugue.
A dedication slab, engraved in Roman lettering and affixed on the wall by the chapel's entrance, shows that it was consecrated on January 30, 1194.
The architecture is quite simple and rustic, yet perfectly proportioned.
St Martin Chapel is indeed a superb Romanesque country church!
Partial excavations revealed that it was erected on the foundations of a Roman temple.
They also show that the lateral chapel was added in the 13th-14th century.
The chancel and the nave are roofed with the traditional slabs of local limestone or lauzes.
The church’s central aisle is paved with large slabs.
However, the rest of the floor is made of pisé, an assemblage of small pebbles set in mortar.
Pisé was traditionally used in rural habitat, as tradional paving was very expensive.
Fainted fragments of 14th- 15th century frescoes are still visible on the wall of the chancel.
One of the purposes of murals was to lighten the interior of churches.
Romanesques churches indeed had few apertures.
Their size was also kept to the minimum in order to limit the effect of cold!
Murals' second purpose was educational.
They were indeed a 'teaching medium', in the manner of a children book with many pictures and little text.
They taught the Bible and the life of Christ and the Saints to the rural populations, who could neither read nor write.
St Martin Chapel dedicated to St-Thomas Becket
St Martin Chapel was dedicated to St-Thomas Becket, the friend and chancellor of Henry II Plantagenêt, King of England and Duke of Anjou.
Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1152.
The only daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine brought Henry the southwest of France in her dowry!
This obviously started a long rivalry that opposed French and English for generations.
Becket was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and Governor of Aquitaine where he is remembered for his fairness and kindness.
He was assassinated in 1170.
It is believed that St Martin Chapel was built and dedicated to Becket in expiation for his murder.
Limeuil lost of its influence towards the end of the Middle Ages and the population shrank.
There were therefore not enough parishioners to keep St Martin Chapel open.
The services stopped and only the cemetery remained in use!
Ste-Catherine Church of Limeuil took over and became the parish church for the whole area.
The little chapel was neglected and slowly fell in oblivion until a couple of decades ago.
A local association, placed under the patronage of the regional Commission of Historical Monuments, started to restore it.
The restoration work is still going on, however, St Martin Chapel is already used for summer concerts and open for visits.
Coordinates: Lat 44.891014 - Long 0.898706