Carennac is located on the northern border of Le Lot, appromixately 50 km northeast of Gourdon. Founded in the 11th Century, the village was built around a monastery dedicated to the Order of the Cluny that prized the virtue of silence and boasted upwards on 1,200 monasteries at the height of its influence. Carennac retains many aspects of the Middle Ages. Its Saint-Pierre church is a beautiful Romanesque building with a magnificent tympanum of the twelfth century. Its cloister, rebuilt in the fifteenth century after the Hundred Years War, contains a famous Entombment sculpture dated to the 15th Century. In the sixteenth century, the town built a white stone castle as the home of the Doyen.


Monastic Cloister

Carennac's monastic cloister served as a place of meditation for the Cluny monks. The structure consists of two parts dated to differing periods. The older section was built in the 12th Century adjoining the Romanesque church with its geminated bays dates. The three other galleries were rebuilt in flamboyant Gothic style in the 15th century. The cloister includes a chapter house where the monks gathered and was recently restored, including a 15th Century depiction of the Entombment, 15th Century bas-reliefs depicting the Passion of Christ and a series of statues of the most popular saint. The Entombment features characters a weeping Virgin Mary surrounded by Saint John Mary, wife of Cleophas, Marie-Salome and Mary Magdalene. Christ, whose face is full of gentleness, is laid on a stone table. The shroud is supported by Joseph of Arimathea, on the right, and Nicodemus, on the left, the two disciples who detached the body of Christ from the Cross for burial.

L'église St Pierre

Carennac's St Peter's church dates to the end of the 11th Century. A tympanum rests on a bundle of four columns offering a symbolic vision of the end of time. Jesus is depicted holding the Bible on a richly ornate throne surround by four evangelists. The apostles, depicted on two adjacent registers look in awe of the heavenly vision. The church has three naves separated by massive pillars and a row of chapels. A square bell-tower rises above the crossing of the transept.

Le Château des Doyens 

The Castle of the Doyens dates to the 16th century, built as a private residence with three floors of apartments. A spiral staircase runs the entire height of the building. The first floor is well preserved with an impressive painted ceiling depicting joists amidst rich foliage, flowers, baskets and various mythological creatures. The castle notably served as home to the famous François de Salignac de Lamothe from 1681 to 1685, known as Fénelon, who became the archbishop of Cambrai and authored Les Aventures de Télémaque (imagining the adventures of Telemachus in search of his father, Ulysses).

The castle now houses the Espace Patrimoine of the Land of Art and History of the Dordogne Valley. It presents a permanent exhibition of free access which allows to discover the natural, patrimonial and architectural richness of this country labeled Country of Art and History by the Ministry of Culture.

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