Journées du Patrimoine 2017
Looking for somewhere unusual to visit during the Journees du Patrimoine this weekend? The commune of St Dizier la Tour, near Chenerailles, offers two gems: the historic site of Les Mottes Castrales de l'An Mil and the exquisite church of St Blaise and St Didier.
The three feudal mottes dating back to the 10th century are in the hamlet of La Tour where a warm welcome and free 40-minute conducted tours of its medieval trail are offered - in French or English - between 10am and 7pm. Visits start from the church which houses the associated exhibition. There is plenty of parking near the Mairie and Salle Polyvalente. The picturesque and well-preserved twin Petites Mottes boast a child-friendly picnic area, and a loo in the shape of a wooden tower. For more information see http://latourassociation.wixsite.com/latouren
The unique 17th century church of St Blaise and St Didier is in the hamlet of St Dizier, just down the road from La Tour. It was reopened last year after being closed for expert and costly restoration to the murals and ceiling paintings that cover every square centimetre of the interior. The vividly coloured medallions containing very human portraits of God the Father, the Blessed Virgin and a number of saints (including those after whom the church is named) are stunning. The building will be open during the same hours as the mottes visits. Explanatory guides can be borrowed and there will be someone on hand (me on the Saturday) to give added information.
Just outside the church is a very old stone "pyramidal" cross, thought to have been a "christianised" sacred stone or menhir, bearing four sculpted figures including Christ on the cross, the Virgin Mary and child, and a bishop with a crozier (possibly St Didier himself).
Down a lane a few yards from the church car park is the attractive Fontaine of St Dizier, a well whose circular surround is hewn out of one large stone and probably dates back to Roman times. It was the object of pilgrimages from the church each year and it was said that babies whose feet were dipped in its waters would walk earlier than normal.