Sacred Spaces And Quiet Towns In The Ardeche


This is the Romanesque church of Saint Andeol, in the town of the same name. I came here with Dennis and PJ of Via Lucis Press as their lackey-in-tow on their never-ending hunt for Romanesque churches big and small. In the case of Saint Andeol, they found a big one.


Since they carry around a couple of wide-angle lens behemoths on tripods and I have a slightly less imposing digital camera, my efforts in spaces like Saint Andeol pale in comparison to their shots. So while Dennis arranged shots of the nave and PJ flitted about impulsively in the search for the perfect chiaroscuro, I ventured out into the town.

Lunch with Via Lucis

We caught up over an excellent lunch of chevre salad and fresh white wine from the Ardeche before moving on to the next church.


That church happened to be Ruoms, and this is a cloudy shot of the Gothic vaulting in a small side chapel. Dennis just posted an article about the history of the church, which used to be a Cluniac abbey.


The thick walls of the church allow very little light to penetrate into the nave, but what light does come through is spectacular.

Old Portal, Ruoms

Ruoms has a well-preserved Medieval quarter, and the old walls were incorporated into houses and other buildings along the outer edge.

Towards the abbey, Ruoms

It was a hot Saturday afternoon when we shot Ruoms, and the narrow streets provided lots of welcoming shade.

Nave, Ailhon

The next morning we drove around in circles several times before finding a proper road to the picturesque town of Ailhon. The parish church there has a Romanesque nave vault, with a redone Gothic arcade.

Restaurant, Ailhon

We were lucky to have found our way to Ailhon, because the road the GPS originally sent us down was meant for ATVs. The narrow strip of asphalt that threaded its way through dense hillside forest which we eventually took up to Ailhon wasn’t much wider than our car but at least it was passable!

Across the valley

We were rewarded for our trouble with the church to ourselves and lovely views across the valley.

Cypress, Ailhon

As I wandered around Ailhon taking shots, I ran into a pretty friendly cat that literally leaped into my arms.

En route to Thines

Forgive me for going backwards chronologically, but the day before we were in Ailhon we made the breath-taking drive to a tiny valley nestled at the bottom of a mountain pass. There lies the village of Thines.

Notre Dame, Thines

The church of Thines is by no means a humble pile of stone; they hired the best sculptor they could find. Whoever he was, he had talent.

Last Supper, Thines

The portal at Thines is south-facing and features a spectacular narrative of the life of Jesus, including a dramatic Last Supper with Judas kneeling at Christ’s feet.

Front porch of Notre Dame, Thines

This is the view of the river valley below, which you see just as you exit the church.

Oven vault, Thines

The inside of the church is also stunning; tragically, a Romanesque sculpture of the Virgin was stolen from the church back in the 1970s. The town still sits vigil for the original vierge roman, which you can see a photo of in the back corner of the nave.


Though Chassiers did not have a church quite as memorable as Thines, I think I liked the look and feel of this town the most out of any we visited.

Altar, Chassiers

This isn’t to take away from the Romanesque chapel we came to shoot–how could you not fall in love with this?

Private Chateau, Chassiers

This chateau is privately owned and incorporates turrets from the 13th and 15th centuries. It must be nice to actually have your own castle, although I imagine it gets dreadfully cold during the wintertime, and upkeep is probably endless.

Small street, Chassiers

Chassiers seemed to epitomize the bounty of spring: there were blooming flowers everywhere.

Tunnel in bloom

A tunnel running beneath the chateau leads to an olive grove behind the town, with patches of wild lavender growing along the path.

Nave, Vinezac

Our last stop was Vinezac, home to a mostly renovated church with a couple of Romanesque remnants.

Stained glass, Vinezac

The stained glass was installed in the last couple centuries but just because it’s not as old as the glass at Chartres does nothing to dampen its effect.

Roses, Vinezac

Like Ruoms, Vinezac features a well-preserved Medeival walled town.

Within old walls, Vinezac

When we were there clouds shifted and the sun came out, only to be covered up again. This was one of the lucky times when the clouds parted.

Potted plants, Vinezac

Everything was in bloom.

Vineyard in Vinezac

If you go weak in the knees for cozy French villages and untouched churches that are a thousand years old, share my passion for exploring places where tourists don’t go, and going on adventures with people from all over the world, you’re in the right place! Click on the “Follow!” button in the upper-right hand corner, enter your email address, and enjoy the ride. It’s free and I don’t spam my readers.

4 thoughts on “Sacred Spaces And Quiet Towns In The Ardeche

  1. Nathan, what a wonderful summary of the Ardeche. I suppose you are in Denmark today or tomorrow! We had a great time with you and will link to this post so that people can see the horrible travails that it takes to get our photos!

    1. hey Dennis! I had no luck hitching out of Orange and had to take the train because of the rain that came through. Montpellier was lovely, I’m in Carcassonne tonight. Just had time to visit the church up in the old city before it closed, and I was taken away by it. I’m sure the readers will love to know what torture it is being a part of Via Lucis on tour in France.

      Also, I have an idea for my guest post I want to kick around, sending you an email shortly.

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