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Church of Saint Etienne

In 1326, the chapel ‘de Laussimo’ was part of the archpresbytery of Montaut.
In the historic Catholic register ‘le pouillé de Valéri’ it says: ‘In archipresbyteratu Montaldensi: Rector Sancti Stephani et Beate Marie de Canilhaco’.  It is probable that this refers to the Parish of Lauzun.  
The original parish church of Saint Etienne was situated about 2,000 metres outside the town.  This church was partly destroyed during the 16th C (we do not know the cause), and the priestly duties were transferred to the chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption which was in the town.  This chapel was then extended and took the name of Saint Etienne.  The parish cemetery, originally around the old church, was also more or less abandoned, and the inhabitants were buried at the town church.

(extract about the Archpresbytery of Lauzun taken from the historic register of the diocese of Agen for the year 1789, edited in 1894)

This gothic style church as you see it today, has been altered several times, notably in the 16th C and in the Second Empire (1866 to 1871) when the vault was heightened.

Of the original simple roman church, there remain two columns with capitals, below the belltower (one visible from the nave above the tribune).

The magnificent doorway is very late roman, with 7 mouldings in a broken arch (end of 13th C).  It was altered for the worse in the 16th C by the addition of a graceless tympanum, which was decorated with a statue of the Virgin Crowned, carved in wood, 95cm high, which is currently inside the church (see further description below).

The Pulpit

The panels on the stairway are more recent, but those on the top are by the same sculptor as the Altarpiece, dating from 1623.  They represent the Four Evangelists, and the middle one, Charity and Hope.

Altar and Altarpiece

Both come from the old chapel of Notre Dame de la Molo, at the Recollet convent founded at Lauzun in 1623 and destroyed in the Revolution.  They were commissioned by Gabriel Nompar de Caumont, Count of Lauzun, father of the famous Duke of Lauzun.  The maker was a wood sculptor called Tournie from Gourdon in Quercy.

The front of the Altar represents the Adoration of the Magi
‘the three crowned kings, apart from one whose crown is on the ground, offering their gifts to the little child, sitting upright held by his mother.  Joseph is watching from behind Mary, his mantle held by pageboys.  The star is shining above the scene.’

The base is decorated with panels representing:
On the left - Saint Jerome
On the right - a pope
On the sides:  left - a character with a stick in his hand; right - a Recollet monk with a book pressed to his chest

Above the Altar

Two twisted columns rise from each base, from which vine branches with leaves and grapes also rise.  Between these two columns are two statues representing the ‘Annunciation’: on the right, the archangel Gabriel greeting the Virgin Mary who is on the left.

Behind the Altar

The three sections of the chancel are covered with carved panels.
On each side, four pictures of increasing size lead to the main picture.
On the right side, starting at the bottom:  a monk holding a ruler, a Bishop with mitre and crook (some say Saint Amboise), a woman pouring liquid from one container to another, ‘Temperance’ (some say Mary Magdalen), Saint Bartholomew holding in his right hand his hair which has been cut off.
On the left side, starting at the bottom:  Saint Antoine of Padua, a vacant panel which used to contain Bishop Saint Augustin (sadly crumbled to dust during an attempt at restoration), ‘Prudence’ in the form of a woman looking in a mirror, with a serpent at her feet (some say Saint Mary of Egypt), St Paul the Apostle leaning on his martyr’s sword.

The wall at the back:

This wall normally contains a large wood carving (in course of restoration) representing St Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata:
Kneeling in his Franciscan habit, arms outstretched, eyes fixed on the winged crucifix resting in the clouds; his eyes are lost in ecstasy.
His companion, Brother Leo, lifts his right hand above his eyes, as if he cannot bear to look at the amazing brightness of the vision.  The countryside of Verna is crowned by the monastery in the background.

The Altar of the Virgin, on the left

The Black Virgin
Tradition relates that at an unknown date, a gentleman of Lauzun was having some excavations done in the main road, and found a statue of the Blessed Virgin in the middle of a millstone.  This gentleman built a little chapel and a retreat for the hermits on the very spot.  This chapel, called Notre Dame de la Molo, and situated about 80 metres outside the town walls, was given to the Recollet Brothers in 1623 by Gabriel Nompar de Caumont, Count of Lauzun.

The Virgin and Child
She is in polychrome wood, 95cm high and crowned, and holds in her left arm the Infant Jesus, not crowned, and in her right hand a bouquet of roses.
This 15th C statue has been greatly damaged by its exposure on the tympanum of the doorway over many years.

The Christ

This Christ in polychrome wood is a work of the 15th C.
You will note the nobility of the pose, in which one can see the intensity of the suffering endured.  Sadly, the cross is not of the same period, as the Christ was found without its original cross.

The Reliquary
from the Home of the Dukes of Caumont Lauzun

It is 22cm high, and is composed of 3 rectangular crystal tubes.  The tips on the ends of the cross carry the arms of the house of Caumont Lauzun ‘tiercé in bands of gold and azure blue’.
An ancient tradition has it that the relic contained within these crystal tubes (a piece of the true cross) once belonged to Sulpice Sévère, a native of Lauzun, a historian and ecclesiastic scholar of Latin, who received it from his friend Saint Paulin de Nole, with whom he conducted a well known correspondence…
What is certain is that the first mention that we find of this relic is in a passage from the will of the famous Duke of Lauzun, Antonin Nompar of Caumont, made on 5 February 1720: ‘…his great relic of a piece of the true cross of our Lord, which he commands be taken to Lauzun to the chapel of Saint Catherine of the castle of Lauzun’.  His wish was carried out.  At the time of the Revolution, a servant looked after the treasure, and then gave it to Abbot Derras, who in his turn left it to his Abbey, by testament dated 29 May 1858.

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