retour au pays de la Plaine de Falaise

cliquez ici pour consulter l'album photograpique Courcy
(Canton of Morteaux-Couliboeuf, Calvados)

Church of Saint-Gervais or Saint-Germain

   The church, which now stands in the centre of the village, was built in the middle of the 12th century within the third wall of the castle of the Barons of Courcy. The construction features two architectural styles. The chancel is Romanesque while the nave and porch-belfry were rebuilt during the 18th century.
The nave is constructed out of cut limestone. The outer side aisle walls and the apse are decorated with two rows of blind arcatures, separated by a continuous torus around the chancel. This decorative style is similar to the one to be found in the church in nearby Beaumais. The semi-circular arches are formed with voussoirs which are supported by engaged columns with a straight-cut abacus in the lower section and a sculpted capital. The bases of the columns are decorated with mouldings and support the torus on the upper arches and the prominent cornice of the wall base on the lower arches. The arches at the western end of the side aisles in the chancel were removed when the nave was rebuilt. As the arches are thicker in the lower part of the walls there are fewer than in the upper sections where there were seven prior to the modifications in the 18th century. Two semi-circular and inwardly splayed windows can be seen inside the upper arches. One of the openings in the north wall was bricked up in the 16th century. The lower arches in this wall are more finely wrought and the intersections of the outer archivolts are decorated with billets and the heads of animals. The side walls feature a cornice which is supported by sculpted modillions. The lower arches in the apse are identical to the lower part of the north wall. The upper arches are interlaced and are fine examples of lancet Gothic arches. This decorative style is rare in Normandy and other examples can be seen on the belfry of the church at Huppain and on the dripstone on the facade of the church at Mouen. The interlaced arches are more common in Norman Italy such as in Monreale cathedral in Sicily. The sacristy, built in 1720, now conceals most of the apse. It features a bare gabled wall crowned with a feline sculpture. This antefix, representing a lion, looks in the direction of the Château de Courcy. It is a rare example in Normandy of Romanesque sculpture. The animal’s tail is coiled around its body and around its neck it wears a collar decorated with chevrons. The lion theme was frequent at this period. Other examples can be seen on the lintel of the church of Saint-André-de-Bohon (in the Manche department) and on the tympanum of the church at Bully (Calvados). It is also used as an antefix in the church at Criquetot-l'Esneval (Seine-Maritime) and the sculpture from the Abbaye Saint-Désir in Lisieux can now be seen in the musée du Vieux Lisieux (Calvados).
The pillars in the chancel are of several types featuring plant motifs, interlacing and gadroon patterns. The most remarkable are to be found on the inner side. In the north-east corner of the chancel, the pillar features a sculpted feline head which holds a string of pearls in its mouth, the two ends of which were originally held by two other animal heads. A string course in the upper part features a decorative pattern of lozenges with bezants in their centres. The basket on a second pillar inside the chancel includes tight interlacing and strapwork on its abacus. The chancel is covered by rather primitive sexpartite ribbed vaulting which is one of the earliest examples of this vaulting technique being used in a rural church. Ribbed vaulting first appeared in 1130-1140 in the great buildings of Caen such as the church of Sainte-Trinité and the church of Saint-Etienne. The construction of the church at Courcy is slightly later and probably dates from the middle of the 12th century.
The lords of Courcy, rulers of one of the largest baronies in Normandy, certainly played a key role in the construction of the church as they sought to create an edifice to rival the impressive religious institutions in the Duchy. This explains the richness and rarity of the decoration and the early use of rib vaulting in a rural church.


- Galeron, Statistiques de l'arrondissement de Falaise, Brée, Falaise, s.d.
T. III, 7ème cahier, p. 412 à 415
- Richomme, "Le château fort et l'église de Courcy", dans Mémoires de la société des antiquaires de Normandie, T. III, 1826
- Pépin, "Notices sur les communes de : Escures, Favières et Morières, Canon, Courcy et Jort", dans Annuaire administratif du Calvados, 1873-74, p. 173
- Regnier L., "A travers la Normandie : Notes et observations archéologiques", dans Annuaire normand, 1892, T. 58, p. 279 à 308.
p.284 à 286
- Rossi Michèle, Les églises romanes de la vallée moyenne de la Dives, Caen, 1973, 6 vol. (Mém. Maîtrise Hist. Caen, 1973).
p. 45 à 49, T. II, p. 38 à 43 (Chapelle Sainte-Catherine)
- "Les siècles romans en Basse-Normandie", n° spécial Art de Basse-Normandie, n° 92, printemps 1985