Saint-Savin Abbey affected by floods

Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe (Vienna). Six departments in the center-west of France were placed on orange alert for the risk of flooding on Saturday March 30: after an exceptional rainy episode, the Vienne and the Gartempe burst their banks, causing significant damage. In the town of Saint-Savin, two crypts of the abbey of the same name were flooded. “The San Marino crypt is regularly flooded, it is below the bed of the Gartempe and it has no paintings. But seeing water in the second crypt is very rare. says Hugues Maillet, mayor of the town. In this crypt dedicated to Saints Savin and Cyprian, the water rose up to 50 cm, licking the 12th century wall paintings.

Abbey of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe: flooding of the crypt of Saints Savin and Cyprian with the Romanesque wall paintings listed by UNESCO.

© JP Benoit

Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1983, the abbey of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe is recognized for the cycle of Romanesque wall paintings which adorns its abbey church. In the crypt of Saints Savin and Cyprian, the martyrdom of the two saints is represented by a program of paintings in an exceptional state of conservation, contemporary with those in the nave. The crypt has been closed for around ten years, following the appearance of a bacterial pathology covering the paintings with a white veil, but without risk for the integrity of the works. The flood of March 30, however, could cause lasting damage to the paintings, whose wall supports are waterlogged.

A diagnosis for the preservation of mural paintings

The abbey received a visit from a heritage curator from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional directorate of Cultural Affairs on Tuesday April 2. This recommends in-depth studies to measure moisture penetration. The mayor has already requested two specialized companies for this mission: “We expect them to follow a course of action regarding the drying out of the walls. It's an emergency “, explains the mayor.

The small town of 800 inhabitants, owner of the abbey, is also counting on state aid to finance these studies and then the conservation project that will follow. The abbey and its invaluable painted heritage are not insured, but could benefit from the incentive and partnership fund (FIP) of the Ministry of Culture. This, intended for small municipalities with significant assets, could finance up to 90% of operations.

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