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

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

An early Christianisation

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

Here, early, in Brenne, Christianism succeeded in pushing through!

The proof of that is this church, dedicated to saint Etienne (“Stephen”), martyr and first bishop of Bourges...

The portal: sirens, naughty tempters

Look at the beautiful Romanesque portal: we can see interlacing and sirens.

Sirens? In the Middle-Ages, they symbolized lust and sin.

Oooo, the naughty ones! That was why sculptors put them on portals, as a warning message...

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

Those frescos (13th c.) are a nice instance of medieval paintings in Brenne, with Plaincourault’s frescos!


First, we notice the damaged fresco (15th c.) representing Hell.

Devils push the sinners in a big fire.

Work, work, always work

Then, here’s the Months calendar (13th c.).

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? They separate the simple peasant from the lord...

Stoning and angels

Then, in the bottom of the church, a very well-preserved fresco (13th c)!

It has two parts: the first one represents Jesus Christ and 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! 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 a church in Mayenne has the same frescos.

Maybe a kind of travelling workshop came here, to do the same paintings?

Well, what do you think of that? Do you know this church in Mayenne?

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!