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(Canton of Saint-Clair-sur-Elle, Manche)

Saint-Pierre Church

   The church of St Ebremond in la Barre-de-Semilly and the church of St Peter in Saint-Pierre-de-Semilly (St Pierre was probably also a collegiate church to the castle of Semilly) are two small parish churches in the St Lô region with the usual ground plan with the flat east end of rural sanctuaries. The nave is simply covered with a timber-framed roof, the choir has two bays, the tower is above the nave at La Barre, but projecting from one side at Saint-Pierre, and the flat east end is lit by three windows. 

The rustic nature of the local material (Brioverian schist) and the bonding of the walls in the fish bone pattern, gives these two buildings, both belonging to the beginning of the 12th century, an archaic appearance. Their compact outline is further accentuated at La Barre by the squat tower, supported by solid buttresses. In accordance with the usual arrangements of these small rural churches, this has a lower stage without openings below a stage pierced by two round-headed windows on each face (with small columns, arches and capitals requiring the use of limestone from Caen), and at the top a corbel table below a pyramidal roof.

Although modest and with a clumsy appearance, both of these buildings adopted the heavy and primitive ribbed vaults of Lessay in the choir, which also appear in a dozen of the small churches in the Cotentin region. At the east end at La Barre, eight ribs radiate from a central boss and are supported on small columns, resulting in the cleverest and most decorative application of this revolutionary technique. In addition, the moulding of the arches (three toruses separated by two filets on a wide band) is more advanced here than in Lessay.

Naturally both churches offer the traditional ornamental motifs of the Norman Romanesque. At La Barre there are capitals with scallops and volutes, and frets and chevrons on the chancel arches. At St Pierre there are again chevrons, and highly ornate capitals with bases decorated with birds, acanthus leaves, and a group of nine figures who could belong to a clumsy representation of the Last Supper; these capitals are not dissimilar in style to some of those at St Croix in St Lô.

Bernard Beck


Dictionnaire des églises de France, Robert Laffont, 1968, T. IVb, p. 172
- “ Art roman dans la région de Saint-Lô ”, dans Art de Basse-Normandie, n° 98, p. 22 à 25