Saint-Etienne church in Paulnay: sirens, musical angels and medieval calendar

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Portal with sirens - © / CC-BY-NC-SA Portal with sirens - © / CC-BY-NC-SA
Saint-Etienne church in Paulnay Parish church

An early Christianisation

Excavations on the parvis revealed a huge necropolis with graves dating back to a time between Christianism and the Middle-Ages.

Here, early, in the Brenne, Christianism succeeded in pushing through! The proof of that is that church, dedicated to saint Etienne (“Stephen”), martyr and first bishop of Bourges...

The portal: sirens, naughty tempters

What we immediately notice is the beautiful Romanesque portal: we can see interlacing and above all sirens. Sirens? Yeah, in the Middle-Ages, they symbolized the lust, the sin.

Oooo, the naughty ones! That’s why they put them on portals, as a warning message to the one who’s going to enter in the church...

On the capitals, griffins or eagles. Hey, this portal looks like the one of the abbot church of Fontgombault (Indre). Maybe the same sculptor, who knows? The upper part was restored at the end of the 19th c.

Frescos: Hell on Earth and farming life

With those frescos (13th c.), we have a nice instance of Medieval paintings in the Brenne, with the Plaincourault’s frescos!


First, we notice the damaged fresco (15th c.) representing Hell. Devils pushed the sinners in a big fire.

Work, work, always work

Then, here’s the Months calendar (13th c.). Hey, we’ve already seen one, in the church of Brinay (Cher)! They represent the year’s farming labours:

• February with the peasant near the fireplace
• March and the vineyards’ pruning
• April and the bee-keeper, with his little bees flying around his head
• June and the hay cutting
• September and the grape-picking...

We also can see the peasant’s labours and his lord’s occupation: in January, he had a big feast, in May he rode, a hawk on his fist... Did you notice the colours? Very important, they separate the simple peasant from the lord...

Stoning and angels

Then, in the bottom of the church, surprise! A coloured fresco (13th c.), very well-preserved! It has two parts: the first represent a Christ flanks by his 4 Evangelists: lion, angel, eagle and ox... Then, saint Etienne’s martyr, in 4 scenes: Etienne’s sermon, the denunciation, his sentence for blasphemy and his stoning.

Don’t miss the two musician angels! Whoa, they are gorgeous, aren’t they? One of them plays rebec (a kind of medieval fiddle), the other one bagpipes... They are announcing the Judgement Day. The explanatory panel in the church says that a church in Mayenne has the same frescos.

So maybe a kind of travelling workshop came here, in Brenne, to do the same paintings? Well, what do you think of that? Do you know this church in Mayenne?

And also!