églises jurassiennes

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The churches:
Baume l'abbaye
Baume l'église
le Frasnois
Lons le Saunier
Pont de Poitte
le Vaudioux



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Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption (Our Lady of the Assumption)

Sentinel above l'Ain: the tower of the Assumption.

  The very first time I ever visited Blye, it was by accident. I had taken the wrong turning by the old railway halt in Chatillon, and cycled up along the top of the meadows and through the forest, climbing steadily in the heavy heat of midday. I came out into a landscape of rounded hills with wooded crowns. It was a bit like Derbyshire without the tourists - but with sunshine. It was at this point that I knew I had come the wrong way, for I had imagined myself heading for the valley floor at Lac de Chalain. Instead, I found myself in this remote, entirely agricultural village. It was a Sunday, and several families were gathered for dinner in the forecourt of one of the farms. They waved as I cycled by.

Continuing the illusion of Derbyshire, the stone-built church is set in a sloping grassy graveyard overlooking the valley. The tower is imposing, but the church beyond is small and aisleless, and of great interest. Unfortunately, as at Fontenu and Charcier, although the doors are open and you can go inside, the grill across the west end of the nave is kept locked. Still, you can see all there is to be seen.

The enthusiastic reordering of the sanctuary that you find so often in France has been less complete here, and the post-Vatican II wooden altar appears temporary, and quite out of place. Behind, the gilding and colours that offset the statues and reredos are as uncompromising as ever. The wooden panelling appears 18th century, but I thought that the whole thing had been restored quite recently. Ornate side altars are crammed in on both sides (there are no transepts here) and the rood and chandeliers complete the effect. There is even a cathedral-style pulpit looming over the modern benches.

What appears an 18th century shell font at the west end, like the one at Saffloz, is actually a holy water stoup; as elsewhere in the area, the font is set in the north wall. But the most interesting thing here has been placed in a window embrasure on the south side.

It is a memorial inscription of 1564 that recalls the establishment of a chantry here in 1400. At first, the dates make it seem entirely alien to English eyes, either side as they are of the great Reformation divide. It begins: Anno 1400 le 4 jour de mars noble s[ieur] hu[m]bert nicolet et damoisele p[er]renete de binanc sa fe[m]me fondare[n]t en ceste egl[is]e une messe de requiem solemneleme[n]t... ('in the year 1400 on the 4th day of March the noble Lord Nicolet Humbert and his wife Lady Perrin of Binanc founded in this church a solemn requiem Mass...') The Humberts and the Perrins are families you come across again and again in this area - they fill the graveyard at Fontenu.

The inscription continues by detailing the form the requiem should take, when it should be celebrated, and how it will be paid for. At the bottom, it is recorded that the priest Anathoile Barbier a faict faire le p[rese]nt tableau et pouser le 5 de Mars 1564.

I have grown very fond of this village, which bears a great deal of exploring. One of the roads is called Rue de la Chapel, and it leads out of the village on the way to Vevry. About a half a mile along the lane is a flat rectangle of ground on the edge of a field, about 10m by 6m. A 19th century cross stands on it, and the fields behind are called dsvsvvsvvsv. Another curiosity is a sign towards Pont de Poitte that reads 'centre de bhouddisme'.

I know my way around now, but my first visit here had come at the end of a 30 mile climbing ride on what was, as I say, a hot day. I looked for the quickest way of getting back to Marigny that I could find, and was please to discover on the map that there appeared to be a bridge over the Ain river just below the village. I hauled my bike down a lane that became increasingly rutted, and then along the edge of a field for a mile or two.

I had not examined the map in great detail, but was surprised that the way was so difficult to a bridge that appeared so big. It was only when I got there that I found it was not a bridge at all, but a hydro-electric dam with no access. It was in a rather dispirited mood that I pushed my bike all the way up to the village, and the long road back to the valley.

Notre Dame de l'Assomption, Blye, is in the middle of the village on the D151 about halfway between Chatillon and Pont de Poitte. Be aware that there is no crossing of the Ain river here. The church is open, but the grill into the nave is locked.