Church of St Etienne
“The most perfect monument that the 11th century left to France” according to Viollet-le-Duc, Saint-Etienne is one of the best preserved Romanesque churches, one of the most interesting because of its pure style and architectural layout. In 1068, the Bishop and Count of Nevers decided to build a new monastery on the site of an oratory founded in the 7th century and handed it over to the Benedictines of Cluny. The priory was completed in 1097.
If its Latin cross and ambulatory plan is characteristic of Romanesque churches, its three-level elevation, culminating at 18 metres under a barrel vault, represents a feat that will remain unequalled until the Gothic period. This design, which allows for a large volume and direct lighting of the nave, is made possible by the existence of vaulted stands with half hoops. They support the upper wall of the nave and counterbalance the pushes emitted by the main vault. Finally, the bedside also attracts attention for the sobriety of its proportions and the harmonious arrangement of its masses, with its three radiant chapels, the two apsidioles of the transept, the roof of the ambulatory and then the wall of the apse, all crowned by the stump of the tower that originally stood on the transept crossing.