Romanesque Chapel Bassac is situated just
slightly to the side of the Crempse Valley and the old Roman
road from Vésone to Agen.
St Avit (450 -518) sanctified the spot which had long served
for pagan ceremonies and founded a hermitage next to source.
Later, around the year 1000, a church dedicated to the Virgin
Mary was built and a
porch was added in the 12th century.
Over the centuries the it suffered considerable damage,
particularly during the Wars of Religion, which reduced its
size dramatically. The chancel,
originally Romanesque, was later modified in a Gothic style.
Two side chapels were
added later still.
It became the parish church and a place of pilgrimage until
the Revolution put an end to any religious activity there for
a number of years.
With the return of peace, the inhabitants of Bassac opened
their church again and in 1894 a thousand pilgrims from
neighbouring parishes filed past with their banners to honour
the Virgin of Bassac with a pilgrimage.
Every year since
then a small congregation perpetuates this tradition on the
afternoon of the first Sunday of September.
The venerated Virgin Mary is represented by a 16th century
polychrome stone statue in the chancel in the place of an older
statue which has disappeared leaving behind the legendary memory
of a Black Virgin Mary. She holds the infant Jesus on her right
hip and at her feet lies an angel’s head. She is often clothed
in a 19th century embroidered dress. Two 17th and 18th
century alter pieces in each of the side chapels are in urgent
need of repair. One is gilt, the other polychrome and decorated with the Malta
Cross although the reason for this is unknown.
Both chapels have statues which are preserved in a safe
environment and taken out for ceremonies such as the annual
pilgrimage, weddings and christenings.
The Aubusson family who lived in the Beauregard château for
several generations also owned land and property in Bassac from
1520 to the 18th century.
This latter fact
explains how a litre bearing five family hatchments came to be
found during work on Bassac church in 1986. Sadly, however, it
was subsequently destroyed when the walls were sanded. The only
trace of the blazons are now the photographs which hang in very
spots they were originally discovered. Inside, several traces of
a litre still exist on either side of the entrance door on the
corner stones and on the right side of the chapel. The Way of
the Cross, lovingly restored in 1986 had suffered considerably
from the damp. Despite being extremely fragile,
the lithographs provide a fine example of this early 19th
century art form and have preserved their colours wonderfully.
To the rear of the chancel are the ruins of a stone alter dating
from the Romanesque period which was badly damaged in the 19th
century. The wooden alter facing the congregation was saved and
brought back from Algeria by Fathers Pincos and Sulauze and,
having been stored at Bassillac for a number of years, was given
to Bassac in 1997 by Father Michel Ventose.
In 1747 the geographer, Pierre de Beleyme was born in Bassac and
according to baptismal records, it would appear that he was
christened in this little church.