The church Notre-Dame of Gouttières

Gouttières is a former commune in Eure, Normandy. In 2019, they had 181 inhabitants. Gouttières and 15 other communes merged in 2016 and formed the new commune Mesnil-en-Ouche. The main religion in Eure is Roman Catholic. The church of Notre-Dame in Gouttières is a Roman Catholic church.

View of Gouttières
View of Gouttières. The church stands next to the manor house. Own photo, 2021.

Around 1060 William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford, Lord of Breteuil (1011-1071) – companion of William the Conqueror (1028-1087) – included the church of Notre-Dame of Gouttières in the founding charter of Lyre Abbey in La Vieille-Lyre (Eure). The first church of Gouttières is said to have been built on the other side of the valley, though.

The church that exists now, was built in the 12th century. Notre-Dame (‘Our Lady’) was a frequent name for churches in France in the 12th century. From its Romanesque origin, this church retains some remains in the apse and on the south wall.

The nave was rebuilt in the first half of the 16th century, a vast chapel was then attached to the south of the nave and an inscription attests that the choir was restored in 1575. The church was provided with a set of stained-glass windows, one of which shows the name of the donors and the date of its construction in 1559. All the churches in the region have been restored after the Council of Trent in 1545. These measures were part of the Counter-Reformation.

Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
From this angle we can only see the parts restored in the 16th century. The chequered stone symbolizes the people (dark) and the church (light). The people are safe in the church, is the message this stone pattern tries to convey to the people. The Reformation was growing stronger in the 16th century, and the church tried to fight the protestants by enhancing the Roman Catholic buildings. That was of course not the only result of the Council of Trent. Own photo, 2022.
Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
In the front you see the chapel that was added to the church in the 16th century. The yellowish part of the wall to the left marks the connection of new and old parts of the nave. The small portion at the right is the oldest part of the church. Own photo, 2022.
Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The 16th century chapel. Own photo, 2022.

This building consists of a nave, extended by a narrower choir, and a vast chapel acting as a transept arm to the south. An octagonal spire covered with slate is located at the entry side of the nave. The choir is the oldest part of the building and dates back to the 12th century. It is built in masonry of rubble stones of flint, limestone and grison (a grey bog iron found in wet plains in the natural region Perche) embedded in mortar. This grison is embedded in the oldest wall of the church, the small part to the right.

A part of the south wall of the nave, in coated rubble masonry, retains a few limestone keystones in the lower part of the wall, corresponding to an older window or door probably closed with a limestone frame in the 16th century. The south chapel is the most homogeneous part of the building. Its window to the east looks like the windows in the nave, but the southern window is bigger and built in the style Flamboyant (late Gothic architecture).

Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The mysterious “opening” in the south wall of the nave. Own photo, 2022.
Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The oldest part of the church. There used to be some kind of door to the east. And a path lead to this church through the valley. Nowadays, there is forest and a hike path. Own photo, 2022.
Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The interior of the church. The small arc in the back of the choir has the original size of the church. The bigger parts were added in the 16th century. The church pews were made in the 19th century. They show their old weathercock in the pulpit, that is obsolete since the Second Vatican Council (1962 to 1965). Own photo. 2022.
Poutre de gloire à Gouttières
The rood beam was created in the 16th century. It shows a crucifix, John the Baptist and Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary and John are approximately 150 cm high, Jesus and his cross are about 200 cm high. The sculptures are made of painted wood. Own photo, 2022.
Autel de l'Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The wooden parts of the main altar were made of painted wood in the 17th century. The altar stone was created in the 16th century. The wooden statue to the right depicts Saint Prix (Praejectus, 600-676). The statue of Saint Prix was made in the 16th century. With the Counter-Reformation, pilgrimage was very fashionable. Pilgrims brought Saint Prix from Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne (France). Clermont-Ferrand is about 480 km away from Gouttières. Today, the Via Arverna starts in Clermont-Ferrand. It’s one of the ways to walk the Way of St James. But I don’t know anything about the pilgrim’s ways in the 16th century. Saint Prix (under the name Saint Priest) is a local saint and martyr of Clermont-Ferrand. Legend has it that Saint Prix was defending the people from injustice committed by the powerful. And therefore he was assassinated. The painting is not the original one. It is a beautiful church, but has some cringeworthy paintings. I don’t know how this could happen. Own photo, 2022.
The priests
This stained-glass window is confusing. It was donated by the five men in clothes of canon regulars in 1559. The home of these men is depicted above them. But I don’t recognize any of the depicted places. Then there is the symbol of a flower, which looks like the white rose of York. There was a pilgrim’s way going from Canterbury to Rome. It was called the Via Francigena. I think the sculptures on the rood beam are from somewhere in Picardie or Champagne. Châlons-en-Champagne is one of the places of the Via Francigena. I have no idea what this means, apart from being five men in the dress of clergy in 1559. The inscription isn’t helping much: L’AN 1559 LE 20E JOUR DE FEVRIER CETTE… VITRE A ETE DONNEE… MESSIRE PIERRE LACOTTE POSTEL ME NICOLE POSTEL ET… TOUS… DE CETTE PAROISSE 1559: In the year 1559, on the 20th of February, this window was donated by Sir Pierre Lacotte Postel and Madame Nicole Postel (his wife?) and all the parish. Are the five men their sons? Are there five priests in the parish? Own mysterious photo, 2022.
Fonts baptismaux de l'Église Notre-Dame de Gouttières
Baptismal fonts made of sandstone in the 15th century. Own photo, 2022.
Mystical beasts eat the roof beams
In 2005 the woodwork of the ceiling was restored. Old paint (from the time of the French Revolution (?)) was removed and rotten wood replaced. Under the paint they found the old paint. The panelled vault made of oak staves with joint covers. The vault bears a hand painted decoration of ermine paws and fleur-de-lis (royal lilies), for which no stencil was used. The ermine paws symbolize the Holy Trinity. The beams under the roof are carved as engouled beams, that means they end in the muzzle of mystical creatures. This way the creatures eat our sins. Which is very practical. Engouled beams are very common in Brittany, but I have seen several churches with engouled beams in Eure as well. Own photo, 2022.
Plafond de la nef
And in the centre, the highest point of the vault, there is an ornamental strip. Own photo, 2022.
The seigneur
This stained-glass window was made in the 16th century. It shows probably the local seigneur (lord of the fief), who has donated the window. But that’s only a guess. The website of the French ministry of culture states that this depicts a saint. If it is a saint, it could be, for example, Pancras of Rome. We’ll never know. The window was restored by Jean-Baptiste Devisme in 1943. The head of the figure was redone by J.P.Tisserand in 1985, replacing a 19th century head. Own photo, 2022.
Pilgrim's graffiti in Gouttières
These graffiti were made in the 16th century and onward. I don’t know when this custom stopped, but the pilgrims don’t do this any more (as far as I know). Pilgrim’s graffiti in many countries in medieval times. This is probably not very interesting for most people, but it’s one of my favourite topics. These triangle (?) signs are numerous on the church in Gouttières. I’m sure somebody told me what this means. But I forgot. And the internet doesn’t seem to know it either. I bought a book about medieval graffiti, but I still don’t know what it means. Will have to put the book under my pillow. Time travel might be a good idea too. Own photo, 2022.
Pilgrim's graffiti in Gouttières
An L and a chalice? “The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true?” I bought an LED lamp and will take photos like that in future with raking light (a light source at a narrow angle that casts shadows into the lines and makes the texture of a surface better visible). Own photo, 2022.
Pilgrim's graffiti in Gouttières
Looks like a cross and initials of a name. Carving into the walls of churches was not an act of vandalism. It was an act of prayer. People rubbed their fingers in the bigger holes to get dust. And this dust was blessed to them. Own photo, 2022.
Pilgrim's graffiti in Gouttières
A ship or boat. Travellers used to go up the river Risle by boat and then sometimes on ships to the sea. We can’t know why it was made. If it was a prayer to ask for a safe journey, or a prayer for loved ones lost at sea. Own photo, 2022.
Pilgrim's graffiti in Gouttières
Birds. Birds can have religious connotation (f.e dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit), but somehow I don’t believe that this is meant here. The graffiti in Eure were made during pilgrimages. Every church had a pilgrimage and the pilgrims went around the churches. On their way around the church, they carved these graffiti. They were not bored choirboys nor acolytes. In some of our churches, we still have active pilgrimages. The people visit the church whenever they have time and not at a fixed time. Modern pilgrims leave small notes with their prayers inside the church instead of graffiti outside the church. I’m of course only guessing when I say, graffiti depicting birds are probably either prayers for luck at the hunt or for healthy chickens or pigeons. Every village in Eure had a castle or manor house, and the castle as well as the manor house had a pigeonry. In my opinion, the beliefs of the people were not very complicated. Own photo, 2022.
Procession banner of a religious brotherhood
This is a banner of the confrérie de la charité (brotherhood of charity) of Gouttières, now Mesnil-en-Ouche. It was carried during religious processions, meetings with other “charités” or during more elaborate funerals. I guess it was made in the 19th century.

I noticed now, that I never wrote a complete article about the Confrérie de charité. So let me quote myself:

The brotherhoods of charity were mainly responsible for (cheap) burials. That was before private undertakers were forced upon the population by law. That was not very nice of Napoleon I.

Members of the brotherhood used to carry or drag or half carry half drag the dead body out of the house. The corpse was fully dressed and there was straw in his pants to make them stiffer. The defunct was layed in the coffin in the church. The coffin was closed, a nice pall was put on the coffin and after some religious ceremonies the brotherhood carried the coffin out through the southern door of the church. This door was also called paradise-door because it led the soul into paradise. Very practical.

Side altar in the church Notre-Dame de Gouttières
The altar was made in the 17th century. The statues in the 16th and 17th century. The horrible painting is said to be from the 17th century. I don’t know. But it was created by a local painter. The religious banner was made in 1878. I bet it shows Saint Prix.

French sources for this article were: Eglise paroissiale Notre-Dame and other entries: Recherche Gouttières on POP : la plateforme ouverte du patrimoine, Eglise Notre-Dame on Observatoire du Patrimoine Religieux and Gouttières, Eglise Notre-Dame on la Sauvegarde de l’art Francais.

The book about medieval graffiti was written by Matthew Champion, it’s called “Medieval Graffiti” and has the ISBN 978-0-09-196041-4


Nestled in a height of 40 m in the belfry of the church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumont-le-Roger, Régulus represents a Roman soldier. Wearing a plumed helmet, and dressed in a red tunic, he carries a sabre attached to his belt and has his calves encased in half-boots. Régulus has articulated arms at shoulder level and holds a hammer in each hand. He strikes two bells 40 and 50 cm in diameter placed behind him, the smaller one every 15 minutes. He nods his head up and down when he strikes the big bell on the full hours.

Régulus, symbol of justice, was born in 1826 thanks to Étienne Charles Martin, a carpenter from Saint-Aubin-le-Guichard (now Mesnil-en-Ouche), passionate about watchmaking and automata, who settled around 1796 in Beaumont-le-Roger near the church. Designed in oak wood and wrought iron, Régulus is 2.16 m high and weighs approximately 80 kg.

Horloge d'édifice : Regulus dit jacquemart
Own photo made in 2019.

The last time he touched the ground was in September 2013. For three hours, two alpinists ensured the dismantling of all the bolts of the mechanism, dismantled the head and arms of the automaton and then lowered Régulus, wrapped like a mummy, with a rope to the ground.

Régulus’ restoration was carried out by a specialized company from the Paris region. The same company that gave Régulus a facelift in 1985. In 2013 people estimated that his next restoration would take part in around 30 years. I took a photo of Régulus this year and to me, it looks as if the cracks in the paint are already deeper. Nothing compared to his bad state in 2013 though (there’s a picture in the last link I added below).

Own photo, 2022.

Earlier restorations have been made in 1845 by Monsieur Martin and his son, in 1854 and 1909 by other horologists.

Further reading: Plateforme ouverte du patrimoine, Événement : 28 ans après, Régulus remet pied à terre and Téléthon à Beaumont-le-Roger. Le défi « Encore plus haut » relevé avec succès This last link has photos of Régulus’ state in 2013 before the restoration. He had no paint left at all.

Litre funéraire (Painted funeral band) in Pierre-Ronde

Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
A litre seigneuriale aka litre funéraire is a painted band inside or outside a church, on which the local nobility got their coat of arms painted once they were dead. In the lost church Saint-Cyr et Sainte-Julitte de Pierre-Ronde this painted band still exists. Most of these painted bands were destroyed in the French Revolution (1789-1799). The revolutionists painted them over. The coat of arms on this particular litre funéraire shows the coat of arms of the family Le Conte de Nonant. They were the owners of Beaumesnil castle in the 17th century from 1604 to 1660. That means that this litre funéraire was painted in the 17th century! I don’t know what the painted sign under the litre means.

I will write about the lost church of Pierre-Ronde another time. This building deserves an article. But today I want to concentrate on the litre funéraire. The first church on this place in Pierre-Ronde, which is now part of the municipality Mesnil-en-Ouche, was built in the 10th century (found out with radiocarbon dating) in Romanesque style. What’s left of the 10th century church are foundations and part of the nave. The church was rebuilt in the 15th century. The bell tower was made in the 15th century, but remade in 1716. The choir was rebuilt in 1746. In the 19th century the hamlet of Pierre-Ronde lost most of its inhabitants and the priest left. The church wasn’t in use any more and was sold in 1966. It was owned by different people until 1992. It was completely forgotten, and the interior was completely emptied. In 1992 somebody found the church (“Oh look, we got a church there”). And the town bought it back. Some sculpted stones of the 15th- and 16th century were found in 2016 in a shed of a private person. The church is being restored by an association of inhabitants of the town. The church was not far away from Beaumesnil castle. And it seems that the noble families were using the church at least in the 17th century. The church Saint-Nicolas in Beaumesnil was built in the 19th century.

Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
This coat of arms aka blazon of the family Le Conte de Nonant is also part of the coat of arms of the city of Beaumesnil, which is now part of Mesnil-en-Ouche too. The French description of the blazon is: D’azur au chevron d’argent, accompagné en pointe de trois besants d’or, mal ordonnés. I really don’t speak Heraldry-English. It would be something like: Azure a chevron argent in base accompanied by three bezants piled in reverse. Or anything like this. Normal people don’t understand this language. It was made to secure the jobs of heraldists. The blazon is blue with a white chevron pointing up. Under the chevron are 3 golden circles that represent coins, one on top, two on the bottom. See, that wasn’t so mysterious. On the church wall they used one colour to paint it all, and only the shapes remained. On top of the shield (field in heraldry) is a crown. The crown indicates that the defunct was at least a marquess, which could have been Jacques Le Conte, marquis de Nonant, † 1641, or Pomponne-François le Conte de Nonant (1634-1654), marquis de Nonant, baron de Beaumesnil. Or both. I’d like to add that, in my opinion, Pomponne is an awful first name. The poor guy was only 20 years old when he died. Under the shield (field) is a floral motive that goes up at the sides. It has no meaning, but it has a heraldic name: compartment.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Here you can see the litre seigneuriale with more context. The whole interior of the church had hand-painted decoration.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Here’s also some context. The ladder leads to the bell tower. The old Romanesque window to the left was closed.
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Litre seigneuriale dans l'église de Pierre-Ronde
Some context again. A tiny closed window and a rather modern window.

Beaumont priory on old postcards

This is an old postcard. Either from the late 19th or early 20th century. To the right you can see the priory, the walls and the entrance of the gallery. Behind the people and to the side of the carriage, there are houses hanging at the walls of the galleries. The holes of the wood construction that kept them up there are still visible today.

Here’s another shot of the houses at the street. Probably the same image though. The postcard is from 1904.

This shows the gate into the woods. I don’t think there is a gate today. Will have to check.

Turns out that my husband took this picture in March 2019.

Here you can see a bit of the ruins of the castle at the top of the hill. There is much less vegetation than today. Many of the houses in front of the priory have been destroyed in World War II.

You can find more of those postcards in the archives of Eure:

History of the priory of Beaumont-le-Roger

The abbey in Bernay (Eure) was founded in 1013 by Judith of Brittany (982–1017), Duchess of Normandy and wife of Richard II (996-1026). She gave lots of land to that abbey, many villages.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bernay
Abbaye Notre-Dame de Bernay, own photo made in 2009.

One of the villages was Beaumont-le-Roger. At that time, Beaumont had the name of “Belmont” (beautiful mountain?). In 1030 Belmont was ceded to Onfroy († around 1050), seigneur (lord) of Pont-Audemer (Eure). Onfroy’s son, Roger (1015-1094) inherited the domain.

In 1048 Roger married Adeline de Meulan (1014/1023-1081). Chronology lacks detail, but sources show more and more often a presence of Roger and his family on the territory of Beaumont after 1050. In 1066 Roger made a first donation to a religious establishment on the site of Beaumont. Around this time Roger started to call himself Roger de Beaumont, instead of Roger, son of Onfroy. It is possible that he built a first motte-and-bailey castle and founded the church Saint-Nicolas, as well as fortified the town of Beaumont. But the sources are rather vague. The only reason to assume the existence of an earlier church than the Collegiate Church of the Trinity, is the donation Roger made in 1066.

Onfroy, Roger and his brother Robert were close to the Duke William the Conqueror (1028-1087), and Roger helped the Duchess Matilda of Flanders (1031-1083) in conducting the duchy during the conquest of England (1066-1070). The duke gave Roger land. Land that used to belong to Bernay abbey. Not only as a reward for his services, but also to create a protective fortress against the rebellious house of Tosny.

The 1077 marriage between Raoul II of Tosny (1027-1102), seigneur of Conches-en-Ouche (Eure) and Isabelle de Montfort-sur-Risle (1057-1102) allowed the Tosnys to become Châtelains of Nogent-le-Roi in Eure-et-Loir (until around 1200). The family possessions of the Tosnys thus stretched as far as the border of the duchy of Normandy. What I don’t understand about this, is that at least one of the Tosnys was with William the Conqueror in England and got land there as a reward.

Church of the priory of Beaumont-le-Roger
The collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity. That what’s left of it. Own photo made in 2015.

To mark his presence, Roger built a big fortified castle, and founded in 1070 a religious establishment: the collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity. That’s only 4 years on from his donation in 1066. And in my opinion it is possible, that somebody wrote 1070 instead of 1066 because 1070 is an even number. Roger built castle and church of course with the consent of the duke. Roger founded those buildings to show that he was the feudal lord, “seigneur”, of the place. The castle and the church were government institutions. The “castrum and collegiate” (build a castle and a church) is part of a strategy of administrative and military structuring set up by William the Conqueror and followed by his sons.

Stars over the abbey of Beaumont
The church under the stars. Own photo, made in 2015.
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