Tours, part two – La Psalette

Quite some time ago I had the intention of doing a multi-part post on Tours (which turns out to be one of the few places where I took consistent photos), but then I got distracted. The first post is here, and I should note that I have now corrected an error (it’s St Martin, not St Gregory, tearing his cloak in two).

What I have today is some photos of La Psalette cloisters, attached to St-Gatien. As I said in my previous post, possibly the most valuable part of the touristy bits of my trip was the chance to look at a range of medieval art and architectural styles all at once. I’m not a very good visual learner and I don’t generally ‘get’ artistic information, so this really was a boon to me.

Each side of the cloister is in a distinctly different style.

You enter- after crossing a breach between the Cathedral wall and the cloister, once the location of the chapter house, and where the remains of the 4th century Gallo-Roman enclosure can be seen -into a mid-fifteenth century gallery:

It’s in a bit of a scrappy condition, but the guide-leaflet (which I am absolutely cribbing off right now) calls my attention to the rather nice medieval floral design which you might have to zoom in on to see. I believe the rubble lying along the left is salvaged from the original building, but where, I’m not sure.

La Psalette - 15th and early 16th century galleriesHere, a view from the upper gallery: the gallery on the right dates to the first quarter of the sixteenth century. The difference in support structures is striking: the 15th century gallery, on the left, has fairly simple buttresses; on the right, they’ve become a little more elaborate, and if you zoom in on the first floor of the right-hand gallery, note that instead of buttresses, the first floor has pilasters, which according to my handy leaflet, are like flat columns. The sixteenth-century gallery got gargoyles, too – not that gargoyles are a distinctly 16th century feature, but obviously the designer of this gallery was more ostentatious than his fifteenth-century predecessor.

Those first-floor galleries, by the way, are the library (left) and scriptorium (right).

I appear not to have taken photos of the interior of the sixteenth-century gallery, which is apparently in ‘Flamboyant Gothic’ style. The last bay is distinctive, though:

Final bay of sixteenth-century gallery, La Psalette

Multiple-ribbed vaulting, which is, apparently, characteristic of the late middle ages. The wall painting is 17th century, showing the Massacre of the Holy Innocents and the flight to Egypt. The colouring on the vaulting might be earlier than the picture, because next up is the Little Chapel:

La Psalette - Little ChapelAccording to the leaflet – I love the leaflet, can you tell? I chickened out of getting the French version, though – the Little Chapel is in the ‘style of the First Renaissance’. I’m a bit confused about that term. tells me it’s an art historical term for mid-late 15th century art which makes a distinct break from the ‘pre-Renaissance’ or, presumably, late medieval style. Now, this can’t have been built until the 16th century, along with the rest of the gallery; and the ‘First Renaissance’ would be contemporary with the building of the very-gothic  first gallery. So I’m thinking that the architects of La Psalette were, in both centuries, fairly conservative in their taste.

At any rate, the leaflet tells me that the Little Chapel has ‘many surviving polychrome traces’, which I hopefully take to mean *original*polychrome traces.

La Psalette - centred on staircaseThis very pretty staircase – thought to be by Bastien François – appears to be a replica of one at Blois Chateau, the latter built around 1520. It’s the only access to the upper floor scriptorium and library. Also, I sat, rather gleefully, on the low stone of the cloister to the right (in this photo) of the staircase, and faffed about with my credit card and mobile phone. The discord between my gadgets and the setting was pleasing unto me.

This concludes your not-very-specialised photographical tour of La Psalette!