Chaourse Église Saint-Martin

What you need to know about this church

Église Saint-Martin

Where to find this church

Church Information

Église Saint-Martin is located in Chaourse, a village with 544 inhabitants about 2 km north-west of Montcornet in the Département Aisne in the région Hauts-de-France.
It was fortified in 1370, and is therfore the oldest of the fortified churches of the Thiérache.

We have found this church open

This church was listed as a historical monument in 1921

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Chaourse Église Saint-Martin
Church from the street

Visiting Église Saint-Martin

So here we are in Chaourse with the impressive church of Saint-Martin. Not only is it the oldest of the Thiérache’s fortified churches, it is also one of the oldest churches in the region of which at least parts still remain. And one of my favourite churches – if not the favourite church – on this website.

Its elevated position in the north of the village makes the church look even more imposing. But from what time does the church date? Since 867, by order of King Charles the Bald, the dominion over Chaourse belonged to the Abbey of Saint-Denis. And a first church was probably already built at that time.

What has survived from this first church – and this is quite surprising, since at that time no one thought of fortified churches – is the bell tower, which originally served only as such; a high, square tower 25 metres high, which stands on the crossing of the nave and choir, and looks like a massive keep. The remaining preserved traces point to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in various parts.

But the actual fortification of the church took place much later, as a document from 1370 attests. This was followed by restorations and fortifications that further altered the church in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These successive building phases explain the different styles that characterise the building: Romanesque is found in the bell tower with keep and Gothic in the lancet windows of the side aisles. As for the two cylindrical towers of white stone with embrasures that frame the end of the nave, they probably date from the 16th century and are the most spectacular defensive elements of the building.

The most remarkable architectural element is the Gothic portal that opens onto the village. The double round arch that surrounds it is decorated with fine carvings of plants and fantastic animals in the style of Jerome Bosch. Unfortunately, these are no longer particularly well preserved.

The interior of Saint-Martin is more modest than its flaming exterior architecture would suggest. Nevertheless, it has a very nice atmosphere, and one of the towers is accessible from the inside. Here you get a good idea of the thickness of the walls.

View into the nave
View into the tower