Church abbey Saint-Cybard de Cercles

Saint-Cybard Abbey Church

is a Catholic church located in Cercles, 45km south-east of Angoulême, 35km north-west of Périgueux and 20km west of Brantôme, France.

Adjacent to an old cemetery with the graves surrounded by grass, the church is located in the French department of the Dordogne, south of the small village of Cercles. It is a fortified church. In the shape of a cross, it is preceded to the west by an imposing crenellated keep. Located in a well protected site between a small square shaded by linden trees , this former priory of Saint-Cybard in Angouleme was built on Romanesque foundations, though only the nave remains from that period. Later, a small Gothic chapel has been added to the north of the nave. The transept probably dates from the 14th century and the entire structure is vaulted in ogives of the 16th and 17th century. In spite of technical imperfections in the construction of the walls, the structure as a whole is beautifully proportioned, while the decor of the capitals sitting atop the columns lends a certain lightness. The ogives of the nave, choir and transept fall on about thirty sculpted capitals. On the outer wall of the northern transept and on the shoulder supporting it, two bas-reliefs have been added. The portal and vaults are in Gothic style.
On the exterior, six capitals resembling the Angouleme or Saintogne styles decorate the portal. In the 17th century, a belltower was erected over the transept. Happily, a recent and long-needed restoration has saved this charming structure from ruin.

History of the monastery


According to Gregory of Tours in the Historia Francorum (VI, 8), the monastery was founded by Saint Eparchius in the sixth century, when the hermit Saint Cybard remained secluded in a cave located under the northern rampart of Angoulême, as an extension of the green garden, above the former abbey of Saint-Cybard and the bridge that crosses the Charente and reaches the current eponymous district. It is above that the abbey was built at that time. It is then only a group of hermits living in cells. The basilica is consecrated by Gregory of Tours. It would be one of the very first abbeys in this region.
Little is known about the institution after its founding until 852, when King Charles the Bald confirmed a series of gifts to the abbey made by Abbot Launus, who was also the bishop of Angoulême. It already existed in 863 as a construction, when the Vikings – the Normans – set fire to and destroyed the city of Angoulême and the abbey of Saint-Cybard, which only began to be rebuilt a few years later. From 897 to 906, it welcomed the monks of Charroux Abbey. And it was completely raised from its ruins around 950 thanks to the Count of Angouleme William I Taillefer, his relative the Count of Périgueux Bernard and Bishop Foucaud.

Evolution of status

During the 9th century, there was no monastic rule yet and it is likely that the community was composed of canons whose abbot was the bishop of Angoulême. It is a Benedictine abbey which around 1096 became a Cluniac. At the beginning of the 18th century, the rule was very relaxed. The last monks were scattered at the sale of the abbey as national property after the Revolution.

Wars, looting and destruction

In 1568, during the Wars of Religion, Protestants seized Angouleme and ruined the abbey. Only the northern side of the abbey church and the superimposed chapels located at the northwest corner of the cloister, the chapel of the Counts of Angoulême and the Notre-Dame chapel remain.

Transformation into an industrial site

It was sold as a national property in 1791. Later on, its site became an industrial centre during the 19th century: a paper mill and a brewery were established, before being abandoned and forming industrial wastelands in the second half of the 20th century. The site was excavated in 1619 and 1912. In 1984, a safeguarding excavation began before the rehabilitation of the various premises.



error: Content is protected !!
Skip to toolbar