Every year we surprise ourselves by discovering paths right on our door step that we have not yet walked and which turn up spectacular views, picturesque abandoned farmhouses, or forgotten architectural gems. The hamlet of Monteil, between us and Lamastre, is easy to miss as you flash past in the car but definitely worth a visit and we were enchanted with the circular walk from Lamastre – perfect for an afternoon stroll after a morning at the market and lunch in town. Monteil boasts two impressive manor houses from the XVth and XVIth C respectively, a scattering of houses and this charming XIth C chapel.
Walking up to les Fauries from les Sarziers takes you past St Just, just a couple of farmhouses and its own chapel dedicated to the saint (pronounced locally as “Ju”) who reportedly evangelised the Vivarais. The chapel has recently been restored by the commune of Arlebosc.
There is only one service per year, held on Whit Monday when the congregation processes up from the village, halting for prayers at the various wayside crosses along the route. In earlier times the procession continued up to the Croix du Rocher where, on Rogation Sunday the ceremony of blessing the crops was held but these two events are now rolled together and also include an optional extension to the “Source des Grognants” where the priest blesses (?) grumpy children, after which the festivities conclude with a buvette.
Certainly the prettiest of these chapels in the middle of nowhere is Veyrines, the only survivng relic of a XIIth Benedictine Priory, beautifully located in a side valley above Satilleu about forty minutes drive from us.
A friend of ours has recently taken on the responsibility for the Friends of Veyrines, a fund-raising association which supports a much needed programme of renovation. There was a delightful picnic last summer and there are plans to hold concerts in the chapel – which has wonderful accoustics – as soon as the roof has been made safe.
These little Romanesque mountain chapels are moving in their simplicity and isolation and the surviving ornementation on their capitals and arches is striking in such out of the way places, far from the main pilgrimage routes along which artistic developments spread.