The collections and furniture

Pommiers Priory houses various types of collection made up of pieces of furniture belonging to the Department of the Loire and local associations, the Pommiers-en-Forez cultural association and the Vieux Pommiers association.

The medieval collections

The furniture shown below is owned by the Vieux Pommiers association, unless stated otherwise, and was placed in storage in the original priory.

Lapidary furniture

The original priory’s lapidary collection includes capitals (12th century) which apparently came from the former church of Saint-Julien. Cut from granite from Cezay, a commune a few kilometres from Pommiers, these capitals show a primarily plant and floral-based decoration with acanthus leaves, water leaves or fleurs de lys.

A Roman bay window head made of Cezay granite along with a fragment of limestone choir screen (11th century) complete the collection. The choir screen is a grille or a metal balustrade, stone or wood placed around a church’s chancel, thus separating the nave, which is reserved for the congregation, from the liturgical chancel which is solely for the use of the clergy. This fragment shows a bas-relief decoration portraying, in the upper register, a lion chasing a gazelle and, in the lower register, a lion (or wolf?) facing a bird (a peacock or a phoenix?) This depiction could symbolise the fight between good and evil.

The zoomorphic corbels

Two terracotta zoomorphic corbels (11th century) come from the church of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul and are around the time it was built. Corbels are pieces made of wood, stone, terracotta or metal jutting out from a wall or a facing and designed to house a beam end, a lintel, a cornice or a piece of corbelling. They can be simply moulded or else have an anthropomorphic (a more or less human shape) or a zoomorphic (in the shape of an animal) decoration. These corbels belong to the commune of Pommiers-en-Forez.


The acoustic jars

Two echea (12th century) come from the priory church. These are terracotta acoustic vases or jars. The monks installed twenty-nine of them in as many niches made in the vault of the nave's last bay. These two jars have been removed so that they can be displayed to visitors whereas the others are still in place in the church. They belong to the commune of Pommiers-en-Forez.

Echea were used to improve the acoustics in a church, a practice which goes back to Ancient times when bronze vases were placed in niches and used to improve the way voices were heard in Greek theatres. In churches, the jars are ceramic and correct the acoustics for the monks’ and cantors’ voices. They act as resonators, absorbing and redistributing sounds and voices over a wider area and with greater clarity. There were many sung offices and prayers on Cluniac sites so it was important for the monks’ voices to be clearly intelligible.

The eighteenth century collections

The decorations in the Salon Rouge

The Salon Rouge was surely used as an office for the commendatory prior up until the end of the 17th century. The monks converted it so that they could use it as a library or as the claustral prior’s office - this is the most decorated room in the priory. Its name comes from the red coat covering the walls. Waxed wooden (oak) panels cover the room’s lower surface. A large stone fireplace occupies the centre of the western wall. Its Louis XV style gypsum overmantel has an elegant decoration made up of floral motifs and musical instruments, which is certainly a reminder of the traditional offices sung by the Cluniac monks. The eastern wall is entirely covered with moulded panelling. All of the ornaments are similar to the kind found in an 18th century library. The decorations were listed as a Historic Monument as objects in 1983.

The 20th century chapel high altar

The gilded wood high altar comes from the old church of Boën, which was destroyed in the 19th century. It was probably assembled in its current location in around 1935. The centre of the altar features a large cartouche framed by engraved rinceaux. The altarpiece itself has two tiers decorated with rinceaux with the tabernacle in the top centre. Small wreathed columns frame the upper door with four niches. The central crowning is borne by small wreathed columns. The Louis XIV style pediment is cushioned by two scrolled consoles. It was listed as a Historic Monument as an object in 1983 and belongs to the Pommiers cultural association.

The trumeau mirror

Although the wing’s reception rooms (17th-20th centuries) are furnished with pieces the majority of which date from the 19th and 20th centuries, there are nevertheless a few old pieces that should be pointed out such as a trumeau mirror (18th century) which still decorates one of the reception rooms in the east wing. The painting is of a landscape with figures at the water’s edge. It belongs to the Pommiers cultural association.


The 19th and 20th century collections

The objects shown next belong to the Pommiers cultural association except for those marked with an (*).

The 19th century

An impressive desk (19th century) with the structure made up of two burr walnut units, and the inside sycamore maple, is in one of the reception rooms in the east wing of the priory. It was used by Mademoiselle de Rosemont when the priory was a retirement and rest home for members of the clergy.

The second altar, which is covered with white marble (19th century), from the church of Saint-Pierre-Saint-Paul in Pommiers, was placed in the 20th century chapel in 1956. It bears the inscription “Don de Bt Beaud 1868 / Mis ici 1956" (Donated by Bt Beaud 1868 / Placed here 1956). The altar front has a hollowed out decoration with plant motifs and the inscription “MARIA”. The tabernacle is decorated with gilded semi-circular plate, bearing the inscription “DEI MATER” (“Mother of God”) inscribed in a mandorla (an almond-shaped geometric figure with Christ or the Virgin inscribed in all their majesty). This is an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The wooden stalls (19th century?), which may come from the former Valbenoîte abbey (Saint Étienne), are now on display in the priory’s chapel. The stalls, normally reserved for members of the clergy and organised around a church’s chancel, are here laid out in rows, like the pews in a church. They were used by the inmates of the retirement and rest home. The outer sides of the wings[1] are decorated with pilasters, semicircular arches and tracery lancets. The first row stands out from the others, as the parcloses have arm and hand rests decorated with plant motifs and volutes.

A wooden knee-rest (19th century) with the arms of the de Rosemont family has a great deal of neo-Gothic decoration made up of ogive arches aux with flamboyantly inspired tracery.

Finally, the painting on canvas by Joseph Alfred Bellet du Poisat (1823-1883) entitled Le Calvaire (Calvary) dates from 1870. It depicts the Virgin holding the body of Christ on her knees and in her arms after He was taken down from the Cross. She is looking at two individuals who are approaching from the distance. An artist Known particularly for his seascapes (figurative art drawing its inspiration from the sea and marine landscapes), Bellet du Poisat incorporates a number of elements relating to this art into this portrayal, such as the dark shades of the sky which suggest a stormy sea, the base of the Holy Cross is reminiscent of the mast of a ship, whereas the Virgin Mary's veil and the Holy Shroud are reminiscent of a sail. This painting was donated by the Séneclause Thiollier family, who are descendants of Félix Thiollier (a 19th and early 20th century photographer from Saint Étienne).

[1] Translator’s note: again, there is no real context but after a lot of research I found a page suggesting “wings” as a translation of ”jouées” in a church context.

The 20th century

The corridor on the first floor of the southern building is lit a number of wrought iron chandeliers with the arms of the de Rosemont family dating from the mid 20th century. Inside the chapel there is a wrought iron chandelier with the arms of the de Rosemont family, dating from the same period, is decorated with the Tetramorph, the symbol of the four Evangelists, surrounding a crown of thorns - the lion (Mark), the man (Matthew), the bull (Luke) and the eagle (John). The chapel is lit by twelve bulb holders symbolising the twelve Apostles.

In the 20th century chapel, on the wall facing the entrance, above the knee-rest, hangs a portrait of Mademoiselle de Rosemont painted in the 1950s. (*)


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