With just a farm for company, the isolated Romanesque church of Colamine-sousVodable (1) overlooks a patchwork of fields with a ring of hills framing the picture. Even today, the churchyard is sprinkled with the wild flowers typical of the Auvergne, one of the least populated regions in France.

A simple and unsophisticated 11–12th c. building, with a roof covered in ‘lauzes’, roughhewn and rather thick stone tiles, Colamine church served its little parish under the shadow of the hill of Vodable and of its larger church, right up to the French Revolution. When the diocese of Clermont was reorganized after the Revolution, Colamine lost its status as a parish church, becoming just a cemetery chapel, kept in use by having a churchyard. From then, things went downhill, as it slipped into obscurity and the fabric deteriorated.

In 1977, some brave people formed an ‘Association de Sauvegarde’ and minor repairs began. On 18 August 1979, they took down a rather crude retable behind the high altar, which had been assembled from older pieces at the end of the 18th c., revealing seven statues, six of wood. Four are rather rustic 16–17th c. figures – Saints Anthony of Egypt (2), Bartholomew, Roch (3) and an unidentified bishop, and there is a splendid late Gothic Virgin Mary (4). The highlight is a wonderful late 12th c. Virgin and Child, ‘Notre Dame de Colamine’ (5) which stands in the company of the great Romanesque Majestés of the Auvergne.

Colamine-sous-Vodable church proves that Audrey Tautou is not the only beautiful figure to originate in the Auvergne. And it is more than a church, it is a parable. Does your church have saints hidden within its walls?