Unique in France: a chapel designed like a Venetian theater

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In the small village of Lachapelle (Tarn-et-Garonne), a modest chapel hides a surprising baroque decor where the elements seem straight out of a theater. Discovery of a little-known gem.

Asmall village of barely 130 souls, Lachapelle can pride itself on possessing, despite its apparent simplicity, a unique treasure in France. Upon entering its small church, a real aesthetic shock appears before the eyes of visitors. The interior is entirely covered with molded and polychrome woodwork. But the most original, and which remains unique in France, are the three rows of stands reproducing the alcoves of a Venetian theater.


A visual shock

This chapel, built around the 13th century , was originally owned by the Templars before being acquired by the Lord Viscounts of Lomagne and Auvillar, after the suppression of the order. The Hundred Years’ War ended, the church was made a parish. Its interior decoration then took an unprecedented turn at the end of the 18th century when the Goulard abbots, who inherited a substantial fortune, decided to equip it with a fashionable baroque decor.

They called on a cabinetmaker from the town of Lectoure (Gers), Maraignon dit Champaigne, who provided them with a very fashionable decor under the reign of Louis XV, in a “rocaille” style, which is characterized by undulating shapes and a mixture of plant and mineral elements (shells, etc.) with elements of Greco-Roman architecture, such as columns with Corinthian capitals.


Church or Venetian theater?

The entire decor, made of carved, molded and gilded wood, is decorated with large 19th century paintings which replace the 18th century originals , destroyed during the French Revolution. The most surprising thing remains, the three stands, concave and convex, which imitate the alcoves of Venetian theaters. Above each arch, masks, shells or plants decorate the whole.


Restored several times, this Occitan treasure, classified as a historic monument, is fortunate to have been able to preserve a good number of period furniture objects. Only the very beautiful trompe l’oeil ceiling had to be redone in 1991 due to water infiltration which damaged it at the end of the 19th century . Using a coffered pattern, it is the perfect reproduction of the decor that existed in the 18th century .


If your route takes you near Lachapelle, stop to discover this surprising gem. The church is open daily from April to October and tours are regularly organized by the Association of Friends of the Church.

Discover the official website by clicking here.

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