[personal profile] luis_mw
Our first stop was Rabastens…

Rabastens - a small commune in the Tarn Department in southern France - was on our list because of the church of Notre Dame du Bourg. [livejournal.com profile] silme came across the place in her researches for the holiday and put it on the possible itinerary just because of the wall paintings. When I finally let her tell me where we were headed in general, and showed me some of the possible places we could visit along the way, one look at some photos she had found of the interior was enough to convince me that this was a definite on our journey.

Rabastens itself was easy to find, just a short journey from the motorway, and the church itself was just as easy to find once we got there. We parked nearby in a narrow street (narrow streets came to feature a lot in our journey) and walked back. The exterior seemed a little plain, aside from the arch around the entrance. At first, the place looked deserted, but the door opened well enough...

... into almost total darkness. A sign on the door advised us to look to the right for the lights. Sure enough, there was a panel into which one could insert a Euro coin, and, as promised, this did activate the lights. It makes sense. In order to preserve the paintings, illumination should be kept to a minimum, and why not earn a little money towards the electric bill on the way?

Once the lights were on, you could truly see the place in all its glory. Most of the church, and the paintings, date from the 14th century. The paintings themselves had disappeared some time in the 16th century and had been hidden under multiple layers of paint until rediscovered during some restoration with in the mid 1800s, and restored by Joseph Engalière from 1860 to 1853.

Most of the wall paintings we have previously seen have been fragmentary - parts of walls, bits of pattern here and there etc. This was completely different. Every surface aside from the floor was a riot of colour and pattern. Scenes from the scriptures, local heraldry and lots of pure decoration cover every wall and the roof. It was enough to take your breath away, even in the relative gloom of the low-level lighting. It's in places like this that I wish we could splash out on a more professional camera. Particularly one that can deal with low light levels and operate at film speeds above 400. I did my best, with wide apertures, fiddling the camera settings every which way I could, bracing myself against the walls and furniture for the longer exposures, and letting the flash do what it could where it had a chance of illuminating everything. Out of some 120 pictures, around 40 came out as usable.

You can see them here...

There was so much to see, so much to try to photograph, that we stayed for several euro's worth of lighting. Eventually, though, we had to stagger out into the daylight again and continue our journey, onwards to Cordes sur Ciel...
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luis_mw

June 2012

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