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Churches portals

The churches portals are the entry doors in the holy world and make the difference with the profane one. The sculptors worked to ornament them and gave a religious and symbolic function. It is not innocent so to observe them.


In Limousin, a lot of portals present some affinities whose synthesis permitted to define a regional style for this part of the building. The “limousine” portal is composed of several arches set progressively back; torus are set in the incoming angles and prolonged to the ground with small columns with capitals without abacuses 

The specificity of these portals refers more generally to a type of molding proper to the region that ornaments the windows openings and the bays of the bell tower.

The torus (“boudin” in French because of the shape) accentuates the arch and fall down on the small columns which have the same diameter:so the capitals are small, a few flared and the abacuses are useless. In reality, the capitals lose their architectural function that is basically to secure the transition between the circular column and the rectangular section of the arch first stone. So it happens that the capitals disappear and the cylindrical molding is developed without a break from the base of the jambs up to the top of the arch.

We find again in the portals treatment the same continuity as in the limousine bays between the 12th and the 14th centuries. Clearly in the Romanesque time it is common to embellish the portals with angle columns, and here again Limousin is part of a general movement after 1100. If we know none portals with columns in the region before 1130, it is probably not a coincidence. Based on the same structural and decorative principles as the bays, their definition participates to the same vocabulary. Their effects are reduced to the only geometric games given by their projections and the tension between the lines drawn by the bases and the verticality given by the leant columns. It is in the portal with festoon in La Souterraine, Le Dorat or in Bénévent that the success of the composition is expressed with brilliance during the Romanesque time.


The granite use is not exclusive of a research of polychromic introducing ornamented capitals of limestone or serpentine. The consequence of that choice is the reject of tympanum and the entire iconographic program integrated in the structure, so a choice at the opposition of the development of the biggest Romanesque portals knows. This particular attitude doesn’t avoid to amplify the sense of facades associating statues generally put on corbels or in alcoves.


So like for the limousine bays, the qualification of limousine portals has a double acceptation: formal and regional. Once again it is not the existence of an exclusive category we have to underline, beautiful examples of portals with rich iconographies are known in Limousin around the tympanum of Beaulieu, but the permanence of a taste and the buildings habits which are particularly important. This is the particularity that doesn’t mean for all that confinement but the contrary: like the general structure notes an attention to the big contemporary trends that excludes any isolation or delay ideas



(Source - Limousin, pays et identités / PULIM)

Le portail polylobé à festons de la Celle Dunoise

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