Page Building a priory in france in chamalieres sur loire du site de la commune de Chamalières sur Loire en Haute-Loire 43

Building a priory


The earliest parts of the church date back to the 11th century. The construction was completed towards the end of the 12th century under the Priorat of Pierre III de Beaumont (1162-1173). Finding funds to build the priory was not always an easy task, as it was financed by donations and bequests.

Before work began, suitable building materials had to be found, using locals who were familiar with the surrounding natural resources.

The work foremen first laid the earthworks to give a level platform overlooking the Loire, which would be safe from flooding. A vast quantity of earth and stone was then needed to build the church, cloister and monastic buildings.

Finding and extracting the stone

The volcanic tuff came from Artias, the Costaros quarry provided the grey trachyte, and the yellow, or multicoloured sandstone was from Retournac. They can all be seen in the church walls. The builders expertly mixed together all the materials to create a beautiful colour scheme.
Granite from the slopes of the Loire valley and grey phonolite from mount Gerbizon were used as foundation stones, bases of which were unearthed during the 2018 archeological digs.
Extracting the stone was made simpler because of its fissures. The slabs of trachyte from Costaros and the Artias tuff were easily dug out with a pick axe using the corners to lift up the blocks.

Transporting the stone and construction

It was not easy to link paths to the building site. Pack mules, and the use of ‘bards’ (wooden gurneys used to carry heavy items) created narrow paths between the quarries and the building site.
In the forest of Gerbizon, lumberjacks felled and squared off by hand the trees which would be then delivered to the expert carpenters with their chisels and adzes.
To discover the wide variety of stone used by the builders, use the stone identification table by the old cloister pond, which will help you easily identify the stones used for the church walls.