Saturday, 14 February 2015


Recently I stumbled upon a picture of a sarcophagus next to a church, in another blog about the Aveyron.

Alyscamps - Arles (13)
Obviously those sort of things are not so common in that part of the world, since the writer was asking her readers what this thing was. In Burgundy sarcophagi are not that rare, There are a number of Merovingian burial grounds around here, of which the most interesting coffins have been moved to museums, but often there are still a number of sarcophagi to be seen. The Merovingians ruled over parts of France, Germany and the Netherlands from the 5th century onwards, and were still in power well into the 8th century.

Carrière de la Lys - La Roche Vineuse
A famous location (although far from Burgundy) where still sarcophagi from the Roman, Gallo-Roman and mediaeval periods can be admired is the Alyscamps in Arles (13). Van Gogh as well as Gauguin painted the Alyscamps more than once.
Closer to home there is a quarry, the Carrières de la Lys near La Roche Vineuse, which has been used through centuries for the “manufacturing” of sarcophagi. According to the information panels there the Gallo-Roman coffins had flat covers, whilst Merovingian ones had a modest roof profile.

Also quite near, in the village of Curtil-sous-Burnand, there is a Merovingian grave yard. As said earlier, the most interesting finds were moved to museums, a number of damaged coffins are on display, and the rest has been reburied.
During excavations in the Saint-Clément church (not longer in use as such) in Mâcon remains of an old church were found, and a big number of coffins from different periods. The church can be visited on request.

Saint-Clément - Mâcon
A beautiful example is on display in the Palais de Pape Gélase (part of the former abbey) in Cluny. It is a sarcophagus from the Merovingian period, and if I remember correctly it was reused for the remains of a relative of one of the Abbots of Cluny.
Finally I have sometimes also stumbled, in the vicinity of a church, upon a solitary sarcophagus. Almost always without a lid, and most likely something found during the clearing of an old cemetery.

Palais de Pape Gélase - Cluny
However, in the course of time I have seen so many churches that I cannot remember, not even with the best will in the world, which churches had these coffins on display (except inside the church of Anost, and outside those of Changy and Saint-Romain-sous-Gourdon)!

The link to the website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, that was me! Actually when I made that post, something in the back of my mind was telling me it was a sarcophagus, but it didn't seem right for it to just be lying around the way it was. Now that I have noticed that one, I have noticed that other small churches have them scattered about their grounds too, quite unceremoniously. I suspect there are quite a few of them in Aveyron. But I had mainly been aware of them in their museum version, as in your last photo.