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Arc en Ciel churches

There are several outstanding churches in the area, and most belong to the Arc en Ciel network. This association has brought together several churches of the Sioule valley and Forterre, organised around four themes:

  1. murals,
  2. history
  3. religious art and symbols,
  4. oral and written traditions.


Ever since ancient times, wall paintings have played a role in the interior design of places of worship. In antiquity certain houses were decorated with paintings of with a variety of often very bright colours. The churches of our region and its and neighbouring territories, such as Gannat, St Pourçain Sioule and Varennes, have retained many high quality painted decorations.


A major theme of the region, the murals testify to the expertise of local artisans and the importance of the educational mission they fulfilled during the Middle Ages.


The murals give a window onto the characteristic architecture of the Romanesque churches and the techniques used — colour pigments, the contours and planes, the use of limestone plasters, and so-on.


The themes of the paintings vary from whimsical ornamental decorations to religious iconography — the life of Christ, the saints and some rare individual figures, such as Saint Louis, the healer-king, St. Jacques, and St. Catherine.



The region's churches depict local history and refer particularly to the first human settlements, the Roman roads, the organization of the feudal system and the location of the many forts and châteaux that have succeeded one another down the ages.


3-Religious art and symbols:

Obtain the keys to reading the different religious symbols. Religion and morals are closely linked, and the symbol goes beyond the visual aspect. Several interpretations are possible depending on the person. Each will refer to the viewer's own life, education, and beliefs.


Addressing the faithful, the symbol had a moralizing function beyond the religious message. Several types of symbols are to be found:

  • moral symbols: representations of hell to terrify the faithful, cosmic representations, birth, resurrection, death, vices and virtues
  • religious and changeable symbols such as the figures of saints, or 'current affairs', such as the Black Death
  • symbols related to everyday life such as work, the seasons, and illustrations of the passing of time.


4-Oral and written traditions:

This popular theme addresses local legends. These singular stories might have been told from the caquetoire - a renaissance 'storytelling chair'.


Traditions tell how the region is at the crossroads of the the langue d'oc and langue d'oil, - the two major linguistic groupings of old French, as well as being a way-station for pilgrims on the road to to Saintiago de Compostela.


In our tourist area, six churches have joined the network:

  • Bellenaves,
  • Ebreuil,
  • Naves,
  • Valignat,
  • Veauce,
  • Vicq.


The churches can be visited all year round.

Don't hesitate to contact the Tourist Office for more information.


Recently, the Association for the Protection of Painted Monuments, has released a route map, the “route des églises peintes du Bourbonnais” which showcases 23 medieval sites loaded with art and history (including Ebreuil). The map is available at the Tourist Office.

For more information, you can contact the association at:
or visit their website: http://eglisespeintesenbourbonnais.planet-allier.com
Download the brochure