Collegiale Saint-Barnard of Romans-sur-Isère visitor guide

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The Collegiale Saint-Barnard is the principal religious monument of historic interest in the town of Romans-sur-Isère, on the banks of the Isère river and in the Drôme department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, in south-east France.

Discover the Collegiale Saint-Barnard in Romans-sur-Isère

France This Way review: the collegiale church of Saint-Barnard is interesting because it has retained parts of the original 12th and 13th century structure as well as medieval frescoes, and is an important destination during a visit to Romans-sur-Isère

The best view of the abbey is from the other side of the Isère river.

Roman style entrance to the collegiale Saint-Barnard

The church has a long and eventful history with frequent damage and reconstruction taking place...

The first abbey on this site was built in the first half of the 9th century, by Barnard de Romans, the archbishop of Vienne. This first monastery was largely destroyed during a Norman invasion of the area, and rebuilt in the early 10th century. This abbey was also destroyed, this time by archbishop Silvion of Vienne, who was later ordered by the pope to rebuild it.

In the middle of the 10th century the church, originally dedicated to Saint-Peter and Saint-Paul, was dedicated to Barnard, the founder of the first monastery on the site, and a shrine built to contain his relics. The church has retained this name until the current day, although the church was again destroyed and then rebuilt in the early 12th century - parts of this roman style construction can still be seen today.

In the 13th century the building was expanded and partly rebuilt in the gothic style - the transept and choir are from this period. The chapels around the choir were built at various stages in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.

The building suffered further damage in the 16th century during the Wars of Religion in France, and it was over a long period that the reconstruction took place, only finally completed in the early 18th century.

There was further damage to the collegiale Saint-Bernard at the end of the 18th century during the French revolution - the cloister from the 11th century was largely dismantled at this time, and later the remaning parts of the cloister were demolished so that a new quai could be built on the banks of the Isère river.

The stained glass windows were largely destroyed when the old bridge next to the church was blown up during the Second World War.


Despite this long history of damage the collegiale Saint-Barnard has many points of interest when you visit.

The facade of the church has a belltower on the left side, and includes a roman style entrance which has retained some of its original arces, carvings and columns, although the statues in the entrance (of Saint-Peter, Saint-John and two other saints) are missing their heads. There is a gothic style arch and windows in the upper part of the facade.

Inside, the church has a simple layout with a single nave, a transept and a choir. Most of the church is from the gothic style rebuilding, although parts of the earlier roman style construction can be seen in the first part of the nave.

Halfway up the walls of the nave, the triforium has a long row of stone arches, the above this you can see the gothic arches with the stained glass windows. The carved capital stones on the columns in the nave are one of the most interesting features of the church of Saint-Barnard, and include statues and busts as well as foliage and animal representations.

Another highlight is the paintings in the choir and apse area. These are from the 14th century and represent Jerusalem with saints and angels, and remind us that the interior of many churches ws painted in the medieval period, unlike the bare stone that we see more often today.

More paintings can be seen in the Chapel of Saint Sacrament, reached by a roman style doorway on the south side of the nave: you might recognise the Palais des Papes in Avignon in one of these 15th century paintings, and another shows the bridge in Romans-sur-Isère that was bombed in the war.

Also in this chapel you can see a 17th century painted carving of the "Mise au Tombeau" (Christ being placed in His tomb) and a magnificent embroidered tapestry of the Passion.

A more recent addition is the stained glass windows in the western side of the church, representing the apocalypse of Saint-John and added to the church of Saint-Bernard in 2000.

Frescoes in the altar of the collegiale Saint-Barnard

Attractions nearby

For other sites of interest in the town, see the Romans-sur-Isère guide.

See more churches in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Drome guide and the Rhone-Alpes guide.

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The French version of this page is at Collegiale Saint-Barnard of Romans-sur-Isère (Francais)