The Rock Carved Church of Vals
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The rock carved church of Vals, a tiny village - population 86! - situated in the Ariège department of southwest of France, is a jewel of the religious architecture of the Middle Ages.
Dedicated to Sainte Marie the church is interesting for its three levels, partially stone carved, construction and for the frescoes that decorate the ceiling of its apse.
The oldest part of the church is its so called crypt (the hall after the entrance) dating probably from the 9th or 10th century.
The apse was built in the 11th century and beautifully painted in the beginning of the 12th century. The dating was done by style comparison with more famous frescoes in other Catalan churches - whose date is known. The colors are characteristic to the Romanesque style period - white from lime, red from hematite, yellow from ocher and black from coal - and the painting techniques point to the school of the Catalan master de Perdet.
The nave of the church - on the second level - was built much later and is decorated with painted glass windows dating from 1887.
The church's third level is a chapel - dedicated to Saint Michel - that lies on a defensive tower built in the 14th century and gives access to a small terrace that offers a magnificent view of the Pyrenean Mountains chain.