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In the heart of Burgundy on the Saône in the city of Tournus we visited the Romanesque church of Saint Philibert. Originally there was a Benedictine monastery here. It was founded in 875 as Saint Valérien monastery (by Charles the Bald) because Saint Valerian was buried here on this site.

He had suffered martyrdom for the faith in Christ in 178.

The monks came from the monastery of Noirmoutier. There they were expelled by the Normans and brought the relics of Saint Philibert. The relics had already undergone a long journey, with stops in Déas - today's Saint Philibert de Grand-Lieu - around 819, then in Cunault - today's Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault -, then in the Neuville-de-Poitou area, then in Auvergne. In 875, they finally reached the convent of Saint-Valérien in Tournus, which was later named after Saint-Philibert

The existing church of Tournus was enlarged for the new monastery. However, in 937 the monastery and the church were destroyed and rebuilt after 949. In 1007, large parts of the monastery burned down, and the monastery church was rebuilt around 1020. In 1120 the new church building was consecrated by Pope Calixt II.

In 1627 the Benedictine monastery was dissolved and replaced by a canonical monastery. This was also dissolved in 1785. In 1790 the property fell to the town of Tournus due to the French Revolution (1789-1799). From 1802 on, services could be held in the church again. In 1841-1851 the church was restored.

Saint Philibert, Front

Saint Philibert, Blick vom Narthex ins Langhaus

From the dark narthex ( antechurch) with its thick, solid columns, the visitor steps into the bright nave. It is certain that there were frescoes everywhere originally. Modest remains are visible.

St. Philibert, Innenaufnahme

The simple nave. The transversely placed barrel vaults above the main nave are interesting.
The side naves are covered by cross vaults..


Since the Middle Ages, the Madonna Notre Dame la Brune (the Brown Madonna) has been venerated in the southern aisle.

Madonna Notre Dame la Brune

The statue is made of cedar wood and dates from the early 12th century. As usual in the Romanesque period, Mary presents her son, who looks like a small adult.

Mosaik aus dem 12. Jh.

It was not until the 20th century that mosaics were discovered in the choir gallery. They date back to the 12th century and show signs of the zodiac and month works.

Reliquienschrein des hl. Philibert

Philibert was the son of a high royal court official Filibald. He grew up in Paris at the court of King Scrooge I and became a monk, then Abbot in Rebais. Because of disagreements in the monastery, he resigned this office and travelled to monasteries such as Luxeuil - today's Luxeuil-les-Bains - and Bobbio, which were ordered according to the Rule of Columban, as well as other monasteries in Gaul, Burgundy and Italy. In 655 he founded the monastery of Jumièges on land donated to him by Clovis II, then the nunnery of Pavilly, with the support of the Bishop of Rouen, Audeoenus, and Queen Bathilde. After a quarrel with Ebroin, the Housemaster of Neustria, he was exiled and spent his exile with Bishop Ansoald of Poitiers. In exile, he founded the monastery of Noirmoutier on the island of Heriou on the Atlantic coast in 677. After Ebroin's death, he returned to Jumièges and reconciled with Audoenus. Around 684, he founded the Montivilliers Monastery to the west of Pavilly and the Monastery of St Benoît in Quinçay near Poitiers.

The veneration of Saint Philibert spread quite quickly after his death in 685.

Quelle: ökum. Heiligenlexikon

St. Michaelgewölbe

Above the forechurch there is the chapel dedicated to the archangel Michael.

St. Michaelgewölbe

The room has three naves and is 12 m high in the central nave. The three naves are vaulted by longitudinal barrels. Since the installation of the organ in the 17th century, the view into the church has been obstructed. Only small stained glass windows allow a view into the vault of Saint Philibert.

romanisches Kopfrelief Gerlannus

On the arcade leading to the main church there is a relief figure of a bearded man with a hammer, next to it an inscription plate with the name of Gerlannus, who is interpreted as the abbot or master builder of the church. The text of the damaged inscription probably reads: "Gerlannus Abate Isto Moneteium e ile". With another relief plate of the arch with a face, the figure is one of the oldest surviving works of Romanesque architectural sculpture.

Kreuzgang und die Kirche Saint Philibert

The cloister was unfortunately largely destroyed. But the rest is also impressive.

romanischer Kreuzgang von Saint Philibert