La Souterraine

As pilgrims reached the Limousin region they arrived at the town of La Souterraine, an outpost of the abbey of Saint Martial of Limoges.

Enclosed by fortified walls, monks had built a church on land donated by the local lord.

The site they chose for the building of the church was  directly above an ancient underground chamber. Its origins and significance seem lost in the mists of time, however it appears to contain a well. This suggests an underground water source having curative powers.

It is this early subterranean structure which earned the site its name Sostereana and at some point it was adopted by Christians in the locality.

In 1017 the monks enlarged the original crypt into a substantial space over which the transept and choir of the twelfth century church were built.

The donor, Gérard de Crozant was buried there in 1022.

The polylobyed arch of the doorway at the entrance to the nave is a reminder of the Moorish influence that was carried back along the pilgrimage road to Compostela.

This can been seen at a number of Limousin churches, notably the one at Bénévent.

The one of the towers at the western end has a white stone placed high up. Tradition tells us that these were a feature of churches in the area, visible at a distance and intended as a guide to pilgrims.

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