Parné-sur-Roc, Petite Cité de Caractère (Small Town of Character)
Let’s begin our exploration of Parné by going back in time to the origins of the village. It gets its name from the owner of a Gallo-Roman villa (a large agricultural estate): Patriniascus. The latter was spotted during an aerial survey in 1976. In early Christianity, a first chapel was built on the estate. This marked the start of the church in Parné.
A Curiously Crowned Church
So, let’s take a closer look. We find ourselves in front of an imposing 12th century porch-bell tower which features stone roofing. This has led to an interesting saying: that there are as many beautiful girls in Parné as there are slates on its roof! It is the only Romanesque bell tower in the Mayenne department!
A Wealth of Paintings Inside
Now, let’s enter the church. Before you continue your visit, watch the short film that recounts the history of Parné. You will then enter the church nave, which is the oldest part of the construction (11th century). Take your time to admire the murals that were revealed in around 1950 and date back to the 16th century. On the left, you will first recognise the Virgin Mary pierced by seven swords (Our Lady of Seven Sorrows); the second painting depicts Saint Jérôme, a hermit; then comes a scene depicting Saint Crespin and Saint Crépinien, patron saints of leather trades, in the process of making shoes; and to conclude a representation of Saint Joseph (whom we recognise thanks to a set square and an axe) is painted alongside Christ who is holding the world in his hands.
On the right, at the entrance to the nave, a humorous scene represents Saint-Martin giving mass while two women in the congregation chatter rather than listening to the sermon. Just behind then the devil and their assistant try to note down everything they say to take them to heaven, but they talk so much that the phylactery on which they were writing broke! Then two other more faded scenes are represented. On the first, Saint-Tugal, Patron Saint of Laval is represented in Bishop’s clothing and on the second, Saint Côme and Saint-Damien, patron saints of doctors, surgeons and barbers are seen observing the contents of a vial.
Furniture of Interest
Let’s continue our exploration of the church, noting to the right, the presence of a surprising prayer pulpit that dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. In the small apse of the left transept, is a magnificent series of 17th century sculptures that belonged to Mayenne’s Calvairiennes Chapel.
Upon leaving the church, you cannot miss the two staircase towers. Initially, there were two houses each of which had its own staircase tower on the facade. They were united as a single dwelling, probably in the 18th century.
Walk up Grande Rue and take time to observe the old weavers’ houses, which can be identified by the street-level basement windows that enabled the weavers to work in their cellars.
At the end of the street, you will find yourself opposite a private house with a brick-covered facade. It was built in the 19th century by Mr Charles Frippier, one of the two owners of the timber-framed houses that you can see on the right.
Now, go down Rue aux Chèvres, and turn right at the bottom. Just before leaving the municipality, you will see the 19th century lime kilns and the six workers’ houses attached to them. Lime production in Parné was relatively high with 50 workers at the site in 1895.
Turn back and opposite Rue aux Chèvres, go down to the foot of Rue du Val d’Ouette, where a small, pretty, medieval bridge spans the River l’Ouette. During the Middle Ages, it was used to reach Laval following the Chemin Valais (towards Mont Saint Michel).
To complete your visit of Parné-sur-Roc, head back up by the narrow Cour Foret street. When you arrive at the top, the Faucheaux House will be opposite. It has also embraced the Frippier house style with a brick facade.