Overlooking a popular shopping street in Poitiers, the Church of St. Porchaire is a Carolingian foundation with a fine Romanesque tower (11th century) and double-naved Gothic interior (1520). The porch contains some notable carved capitals.
History of St-Porchaire
St. Porchaire was a 6th-century abbot of St-Hilaire-le-Grand who later became a hermit. After his death, he was buried in the small church of St-Sauveur outside the Roman walls of Poitiers. His grave attracted the veneration of many pilgrims.
In the late 9th century, during the Carolingian era and after the Norman invasions, Theotadus, the treasurer of St-Hilaire, built a Church of St. Porchaire on the present site. St. Porchaire's relics were translated to the new shrine. A new market area developed around the church, which is still a main shopping district of Poitiers today.
In 1068, the Church of St. Porchaire became a priory church, attached to the Benedictine Abbey of Bourgueil. A priory was built on the site of the present rectory and a new Romanesque church was constructed in the late 11th century.
By the early 16th century, the old Romanesque walls of St. Porchaire were in danger of collapsing. So, in 1509, the old building (except for the tower) was torn down and construction on a new building began. The new church, built in a Gothic style inspired by Dominicans from Toulouse, was completed in 1520.
Apparently lost, the relics of St. Porchaire were discovered in the church in 1676. After the turmoil of the Revolution, the Church of St. Porchaire regained its function as a parish church under the Concordat of 1801.
In 1843, the church was nearly destroyed due to the City Council's wish to expand the narrow medieval street for modern use. But a passionate campaign to save the historic place of worship was successful, and St-Porchaire was protected as a historical monument. Today it remains an active place of worship and a landmark in the heart of the city.
What to See at St-Porchaire
From the Carolingian era (late 9th century), the west wall of the church still survives.
Attached to this is the Romanesque west tower (late 11th century), a majestic square edifice with a large porch, three levels of decorative arches, and a pavilion roof. On the right side of the portal is a Romanesque capital depicting Daniel in the Lions' Den; the other capitals depict pairs of lions and birds.
The interior of the church is an early 16th-century construction, based on the 13th-century design of Dominicans from Toulouse. It has two naves, divided by a central arcade: the one on the left for the parish and the one on the right reserved for the monks.
Both altars date from the 17th century; the red marble table in the north nave is from the destroyed Benedictine Abbey of St. Cyprian in Poitiers. The sarcophagus of St. Porchaire has stood in the choir since 1951.
Decorating the walls are 16th-century murals of the Twelve Apostles, each holding his symbol and an article of the Creed. Along the north side are small chapels. The stained glass windows were made in 1912 by Henri Carot, in the style of the early 16th century when the church was built.
Quick Facts on St-Porchaire
|Dates:||9th C; 11th C; 16th C|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||46.581385° N, 0.339916° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near St-Porchaire|
- Personal visit (July 14, 2008).
- Peter Strafford, Romanesque Churches of France: A Traveller's Guide (London: Giles de la Mare, 2005), 227.
- L'église Saint-Porchaire de Poitiers - Diocese of Poitiers
- The Church of St Porchaire - Poitiers Office of Tourism
Map of St-Porchaire, Poitiers
Below is a location map and aerial view of St-Porchaire. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.