This Romanesque church was founded around 1060 or 1070.
Its remarkable 12th century bell tower is over 20 metres high. Its square 2 level base has two upper openings. Their semicircular arches are supported by small columns. The next level is flanked with fake openings, with triangular crownings called « gables », and is a transition between the lower part and the last three octogonal shaped levels. This rare and elaborate type of structure is called a « Limousin bell tower ». And yet there are only four of these in Limousin : in Saint-Leonard de Noblat, Uzerche, Saint-Junien and Collonges. On this particular church, the old red sandstone spire was replaced by a cone shaped roof.
In the late 14th century, the church was fortified, as you can see thanks to the 3 corbels above the portal. They show that the church once had a brattice enabling defenders to shoot or throw objects at attackers to defend the entrance. The church was also enlarged in the late 14th century, when a second nave was added on. This nave was shorter than the first one and was surmounted with a second bell tower. Four different sized chapels were also added on in the 15th and 16th centuries. These successive additions gave the church its unusual and irregular shape.
In the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion, the church was fortified once again, with a square tower called “the lookout tower”, with loopholes and arrowslits.
In the church, all the red sandstone keystones are sculpted to represent either biblical characters or geometric shapes. The church’s most remarkable capitals are located beneath the Limousin bell tower, on the same level as the first floor openings. They were sculpted in the 12th century. Their style is Romanesque and they are mainly palmettes and interlacing figures. One of the sculpted corbels is quite different from the others. It used to be part of the original portal fragments and was actually re-used here.
Notice the seventeen 15th and 16th century culs-de-lampe, sculpted to represent humans, animals, plants, shapes and various objects, such as this torch.
The architecture of Collonges’s church
This video explains the outstanding architecture of Collonges’s church, with its two bell towers, fortified tower and irregular layout; Be sure to watch it before entering the church.