Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chapelle des Penitents Noirs

Chapelle des Penitents Noirs
Villefranche-de-Rouergue
It's hard to believe this plain, rather boxy building holds not only yesterday's Mystery Man, but also a beautiful, jewel-box interior. I took advantage of patrimoine weekend to visit the Chapel of the Black Penitents in Villefranche. Built 1642-1671, it was the home of the Confraternity of the Black Penitents, a popular lay organization during the 16th and 17th centuries. Confraternities spread throughout Europe during this time and were formed by lay men (and eventually women) who wished to live a life of penance and service without the restrictions of clerical rules and regulations. Penances included fasting, self-flagellation, and wearing of a hair shirt among others. The Black Penitents did their community service by ministering to condemned prisoners, accompanying them to their execution and providing them a Christian burial. All Penitents were hooded to prevent their identity being known. There developed some tension between the local parish churches and the Confraternity meeting places as the Penitents held shorter masses, usually without a sermon, and were open to all. It seems many parishioners preferred these services and attended them rather than the Cure's Catholic mass. Wonder why???
All this is pretty irrelevant, though, to the Chapel's gorgeous ornate interior. Rounded and vaulted, it's a surprisingly cozy and intimate space
The room is surrounded with 6 large 18th century paintings depicting, the Annunciation, the birth of Christ and the Crucifixion
.The centerpiece of the Chapel is the crucified Christ under a dome of stars and angels
with it all overlooked by God the Father with the Son.
Beautiful and very difficult to imagine the space filled with black robed and hooded figures!

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