Tag Archives: Romanesque

Little Churches of France

Albert A. Chadwick. Little Churches of France: Their Origin; Their Characteristics; Their Periods. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930.

I was curious which churches in France would be described as “little”. Santa Sabina, an Early Christian church in Rome, is often described as such. To be sure, compared to St. Peter’s or other cathedrals, it is indeed a little church. I had always imagined Santa Sabina to be little like a small country church. I was shocked at the size when I saw it the first time. Since then I always take “little” with a grain of salt.

It was not the size of the churches documented by Chadwick that surprised me but rather the diversity. Chadwick writes in his introduction:

It must not be assumed from this that France has not her fair share of charming, small, parochial churches. They are there in large numbers and of greater variety than in England, but they are difficult to find. The average Frenchman cannot tell you where to look for them; he will answer your query vaguely, “I do not know; perhaps in Burgundy.” This is because they lie largely in the villages off the beaten tracks- and the French railroads and motor roads have a happy faculty of passing such villages by. (pg. 1)

Perhaps I am not supposed to admit this, but I did not recognize a single church in Chadwick’s collection. To be fair, medieval French architecture is not in  my wheelhouse, though I expected to know at least a handful of the plates. While Chadwick’s introduction is quite broad and general and his use of the terms “primitive Romanesque” and “primitive Gothic” is problematic, the collection of plates is quite remarkable. If one is so inclined to broaden their knowledge of French medieval and Renaissance architecture, spending some time with these plates is a must.