Some regions of France are especially rich in Romanesque architecture. The Auvergne is pre-eminent. They have their regional peculiarities — the bigger churches tend to have high transepts and octagonal central towers.

Nestling in the Sioulet valley, Orcival (1) is many ways the finest, a real pilgrimage church too (see ND May 2011).

Sainte Nectaire (2) is brilliantly seated on its promontory, known as Mont Cornadore, and displays the characteristic Auvergnat flushwork decoration of alternating dark volcanic rock and lighter stone around its apse. The chapels radiating from the apse are found in many of the larger churches, also exemplifiedby Issoire (3) whose interior features splendidly carved capitals, and a gaudiness owing to nineteenth-century enthusiasm.

The church of St Julien at Brioude (4) is the largest of all of these, with a dark, mysterious interior (5); Julien, believed to have been a martyr early in the fourth century, enjoyed a cultus that began towards the end of the fourth century; his pilgrimage cult may have contributed to this fine church.

Further reading: Bernard Craplet, Auvergne Romane, Zodiaque (various editions).