Saturday, 25 February 2017

A day out in the Brionnais


The Brionnais is an area in the southwestern corner of Burgundy, more or less enclosed by Charolles and Digoin in the north and Chauffailles and Iguerande in the south. It is an area with rolling hills, forests and meadows with only on the western side the flat plane of the river Loire. We visit the Brionnais regularly, for various reasons.

Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais - Market
One of our main reasons to organise a day out to the Brionnais is the weekly cattle market (Wednesday all day) in Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais. Although the old fashioned market, where the farmers trade with each other on a one to one basis, is getting smaller each time we get there, it is still a very lively, very busy market. The amount of cattle that is traded under canopies diminishes in favour of selling in the auction ring, where the cows are entered, their weight and particulars are displayed on a big screen, and where the farmers can bid electronically.

Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais - Auction
The whole auction strongly resembles a Dutch vegetable or flower auction. On market day all restaurants in the village offer a menu du marché, which consists of a main dish, a cheese platter and a desert at a very reasonable price (approx. € 15 pp). One of the charms is also that one usually is seated at the same table as the farmers, whom for obvious reasons get priority over tourists when food is to be ordered. Even though by now we know the market inside out, we still happily visit the Brionnais on a Wednesday, if only to enjoy a first class steak frites in Saint-Christophe.

Saint-Christophe-en-Brionnais - Lunch
However, it seems a bit daft to travel roughly an hour just for a good lunch. The Brionnais boasts a big number of towns and villages with very interesting Romanesque (=Norman) churches; some have a crypt, others have beautifully carved capitals, and a number of them are decorated with stunning tympanums above the entrance doors.

Anzy-le-Duc - Capital
It is virtually impossible to mention all churches that are worth a visit; below are some highlights.
Those are, amongst others: Paray-le-Monial, Anzy-le-Duc, Semur-en-Brionnais, Montceau-l'Etoile, Varenne-l'Arconce, Saint-Germain-en-Brionnais, Bois-Sainte-Marie, Saint-Laurent-en-Brionnais, Châteauneuf, Iguerande, Charlieu (42) and Neuilly-en-Donjon (03). Those who would like to make a trip past the Romanesque churches can follow the signs "Circuit des églises romanes du Brionnais", a trip which is extensively described on the site "Le site sur l'Art Roman en Bourgogne".

Neuilly-en-Donjon (03) - Tympanum

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