In the late 11th century, Beaulieu sur Dordogne’s Benedictine abbey was part of the Order of Cluny, whose central abbey was located in the Burgundy region. The abbots took advantage of the period of peace to build Saint Pierre abbey church.
They began building around 1100. They started by the Romanesque choir and transept making their way to the west end, the church’s only Gothic part. In the 14th century, a monumental bell-tower was built in the southwest end.
Besides the town’s ramparts, the abbey was also encircled by its own wall, along with every area used by the monks including the dining-area, dormitories, infirmary, gardens and cemetery. There used to be a cloister on the north end of the church. The door between the church and the cloister is now sealed off. You can still see its lintel with a flat sculpture of the Prophet Daniel and two lions.
The old capitulary room with its beautiful capitals was located in the east end of the cloister. Nowadays, it is used as the church’s sacristy.
The abbey church is built in local carved sandstone and rubble masonry. Its style is typical of Cluny : simple and austere. The nave is made up of a central pathway and two collateral pathways.
The apse is surrounded by an ambulatory and three small chapels.
There is an apse and stairway tower on each of the transept’s arms, and the crossing is covered by a dome, beneath an octagonal bell-tower with a square base. The elements’ different levels bring harmony to the eastern end.
There are many sculptures in and around the church. Inside, the column bases are mainly plant and torus sculptures. There are similar sculptures on the capitals, with a few imaginary animal sculptures as well.
Outside, the sculpted modillions mainly represent humans and animals. There are about 100 original modillions.
Saint-Pierre Abbey church
Beaulieu sur Dordogne’s abbey church was built amongst a Cluny abbey. The town developed around this ensemble.
Find out about the church’s typical Cluny-style architecture and history thanks to this video, and discover how the abbey cloister and monastic buildings were organized.