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 Notre Dame de l'Assomption Church

The church of our Blessed Virgin Assumption


Some words on its construction, Enlargement of the XVIth century, Enlargement of the XVIIth century, Some modifications of details, Congregation chapel, Organs, restaurations The choir


Some words on its construction

   In 972, Guillaume 1st, Count of Arles helped by his vassals obtains the departure of the Saracens which were entrenched in Fraxinatum in the heart of the Maures (mountain south of France). Called Guillaume 1st " The Liberator ", he proclaims himself " Marquis of Provence ". He shares his lands between the main Provencal families. The judge Renard who assists him in its pleadings, receives two "alleux" of which one in oriental Provence where is the castrum of Paracol and its domain, with, in the plain, some houses around a lordly house and a church dated the end of the Xth century. A town still not wearing the name of "Le Val".

The family of Châteaurenard is going to give its possessions to the "Saint Pierre de Montmajour les Arles" Benedictine abbey. The genealogy of the Châteaurenard family and the charters of the donations, throughout the XIth century, are perfectly known.

In the castrum a preRomanic high chapel can be dated at the very beginning of the Xth century. A low chapel of pure Romanic style was built by 1010 by the Châteaurenard family there.

In the plain, the church will collapse at the beginning of the XIth century. Dalde of Châteaurenard, Saint Laurent of Avignon's abbess , will make it reconstruct and consecrate in 1068. The act of consecration mentions that it is dedicated to " St. Marie de la Vallée, Saint Jean Baptist, Saint Sidoine and Saint Etienne ". This act mention it as " near Aix under the castle of Paracol " and indicates that it is about a reconstruction, " réhédificavit " says the text.

The medieval church has the shape of a Latin cross; we find this plan in many rural churches of the region. It is of modest dimensions, 21,70 m in the length of the nave. The choir, in its continuation, measures 6,30 m. The length of the transept is about 16,43 m; the width of the nave about 7,49 m; the height under the vault about 11,22 m.

The church is oriented West-East as it is the custom.

The North entrance of the church was in front of one of the entrances of the ramparts, surmounted by a tower.



On the plan opposite, the church is in 2, the tower above in 1.

Click photos to have an increase of it.

The choir, the furthermost part flat, presents on each side, a chapel ( 2 ) opening on the arms of the transept. The East wall was opened only by two small windows. 

The choir ( 1 ) heightened by some stairs presents a lower vault in an eased broken arch, quite as those of both arms of the transept and the lateral chapels: vaults of full round arch.

   In the South walls of the choir and the chapels, small niches allowed to accommodate the objects of the cult.
Outside, we are struck by the average device with stones the size of which is perfect - they are assembled in sharp joints.
The West wall, of the same making, presents a darker colour; because of its orientation, it was opened by an oculus; a door ( 6 ) - today walled up which gave access to the church.

On the photography opposite, we distinguish the oculus on the face West, and in the background, the bell tower of 19 ° set up on the ancient tower of the ramparts.

The wall the North, visible at first, is visible then in its top. It is opened by the main entrance of full round arch (4 ) which gives access, by some stairs, to the big nave.

A blazon is engraved on the door:

 A small entrance (5 ), opened in the left hand of the transept, which we reached by an alley disappeared during the enlargement of the XVIIth century.
 The vault, bond perfectly (see the photography illustrating the choir above), is in 3 ceiling beams broken arch which fall again on capitals decorated with primitive motives the meaning of which remains enigmatic.
 The bases which support the half engaged columns are decorated with very simple motives. A ledge in quarter of circle, at the foot of the vault, served during its construction and ends it in a perfect way.

 Such was the medieval church. It is going to undergo two enlargements, one in the XVIth, the other one in the XVIIth century, the population having become more numerous.


    Enlargement of the XVIth century.

In 1521, in the South of the choir, a groin arched sacristy is build ( the small current entrance) including the separate south lateral chapel while the priest in charge will reach directly the lordly house become monastic house then presbytery.
   Three big openings in the "gouttereau" wall south will allow to create three lateral chapels of the depth of the arm of the transept, they will be as this last one vaulted by full round arch. They will receive altars which were placed in the nave between pillars so clearing this last one.
The addition of the south chapels is very visible from outside, the execution by having been "less been looked after". We distinguish well on the photography opposite both execution features.



In the chapels of paintings decorate walls, and more strangely a marble plate for the harbour of the war 14-18...

The chapel most on the West served for a long time as baptistery; today statues which were formerly in the choir are exposed as well as the Christmas crib.


    It is against the north wall of one of these new chapels that the baptistery is installed today.


  Enlargement of the XVIIth century.

   In 1613, in the North of the choir, a new sacristy which will open directly on this last one is built. It is nowadays still used. The sacristy of 1512 will become a new entrance of the church having opened a door of full round arch looking onto the nearby place.

   By encroaching in the North on the street, two chapels of the depth of the left hand of the transept will be built communicating with the nave by two big full round arched openings.

 On the photography above to the right, we see the first chapel added to the left of the north entrance. The photography opposite shows the same chapel seen from the inside. We shall notice in particular the opening moved on the left, houses had already been built along ramparts when the street was used to enlarge the church.

 Having closed the opening entrance to the arm of the transept this last one will be transformed into chapel.

It is above this chapel that the bell tower was set up ( three bells).


   Some modifications of details.

  In the choir, the central stained glass will be created and both lateral openings enlarged and decorated with stained glasses representing Saint Cyriaque and Saint Blaise bosses of the parish. The walls of the choir will receive paintings, Annunciation and Visitation, which will succeed the vault N-D of the Assumption become illegible in time. Paintings of the XVIth, XVIIth and XVIIIth century already decorated the lateral chapels.

In the XIXth and in the XXth century, statues, donations of the believers, were placed on the side altars and against columns painted in false wood as the walls.

  Saint-Georges Jeanne d'Arc   le baptème  


Congregation chapel

Although having counted up to fifteen chapels, the territory of Le Val conjugated for a long time the spirituality to the only male mode. It was necessary to wait for the second part of XIX ° century to see finally being built, in appendix of the church, the Chapel of the Congregations which became the religious official seat of the girls " Children of Marie " and " Mothers of saint-Anne ". We still ignore the name of the painter which assured the internal decoration, but it is typical of the time of Napoleon III, mixture of classic Louis XIV and regency, mixed of Viollet-Le-Duc. Of the style very typified by this last one, we notably find the false curtains painted on walls. Other curiosity than theologians recovered with the smile: the strange naivety of the full of imagery translation of the litany of the Virgo. Where, for example, the seat of the wisdom becomes a good armchair, and the mirror of the justice a true mirror.


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It is recently that the chapel was renewed. Dedicated to the Virgo, it is her who thrones in majesty above the altar.  


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Curtains and the Holy Shroud painted in still-life deception on walls The ceiling is decorated in the Italian way, the false marble and the blazons The altar is as set in the draperies of paintings

Some details:

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congregation02.JPG (44856 bytes)


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The banner of Our Lady de Paracol, the one who opens the road of the annual procession. One "icon" in one of the shop windows of the chapel. Statuette of the virgin


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Icon Icon


It is in the XXth century when the current stone floor will replace the big stony paving stones of origin.




It is in 1866 when the current organ was introduced into the church. The organ is on a stage situated against the western wall, above the entrance.
In Christmas, it is on the stage that the choir settles down for a sung midnight mass.
More technical information about the big organ, click the link opposite (French language):


 In 1989 we removed all the objects accumulated in the monument for centuries: statues were grouped together in a chapel, the pulpitwas put down, paintings and a confessional were kept. In the big nave we put back visible stones, we resumed "formerets" bows. The lateral chapels were cleared of their forged iron barriers, their walls, as well as those of the shoulders were casted again and whitened. We restored the paintings of the choir wall and we created on the vault " a coronation of the Virgo ". An indirect lighting highlighted the architecture of the XIIth century and the paintings.



   The choir - Pictures     

By investigating photos below, you will obtain, by clicking certain details, an increase of frescoes.





    If it was not possible to recreate the medieval church, at least it is possible to imagine the monument of the XIIth century and to appreciate its simplicity, its sobriety, its quite monastic austerity wanted by his founder Balde of Chateaurenard.



Study from the book:

" Le Val, un village de Provence à travers les siècles"

éditions  Sacour-Ollé, Nîmes

Henri Authosserre

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