Grenoble, remains of history
In the first century before Christ, Cularo is a small, blossoming village on the left bank of the Isère. Its geographic location made it a prime customs center and military outpost. In the third century, the city closes itself within solid ramparts. Around 380, under the reign of the emperor Gratien, Cularo becomes Gratianopolis, then Gragnavol, and finally Grenoble.
The Saint Laurent church and Saint Oyand crypt
The old Saint Laurent parish church and its immediate surroundings present a complex archeological site, unique in Europe, of which the oldest parts date back to ancient and early medieval times.
A major burial site, Saint Laurent is a key element in understanding funeral rites and burying methods from the earliest Christian era to the 18th century.
More than 1500 sepulchres have been found.
Eight mausoleums from the 4th and 5th centuries figure among the oldest in the collection. One of them, unique in France, has preserved its interior decoration which consists of faux marble painting.
The site's most valuable treasure is undoubtedly the Saint Oyand crypt, vestige of a funerary church built in the early 6th century in the shape of a Greek cross. Each branch contained three apses, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
Although the higher parts of the church were destroyed during the Carolingian period, the east wing of the crypt has survived in remarkable condition.
It was decorated with a colonnade made up of 20 columns Vimine breccias, Bourdeaux conglomerate, or white marble from Savoy, reused from ancient times.
The columns are topped with capitals and abaci made of limestone from the Baux de Provence ou white marble with remarkably rich sculpted decorations, typical of Christian iconography of the 7th century: palm trees, date trees, lambs, doves, griffons, and vases with leaves escaping from them, symbol of the Resurrection.
The Saint Laurent church that we see today replaced the original Carolingian church around 1150. This first church was itself built on the site of a funerary church. In the 11th century, the site began changing vocations when a community of Benedictine monks from the Saint Chaffre monastery in Velay settled here.
The abbot of this monastery was related to the bishop of Grenoble.
The Benedictine founded the Saint Laurent priory and rebuilt the church around 1150.
During the second half of the 17th century, the priory was suppressed and Saint Laurent became a parish church and the seat of a chapter dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint Laurent.
Although the bell tower was rebuilt in the 17th century, the higher parts of the apse have preserved their original decorations from the 12th century. The bay arches of the choir finish as fine columns with sculpted capitals.
At the base of the roof, sculpted modillions represent different volatiles, animal heads, or human faces.
Starting in 1977, the church and its immediate surroundings, including the location of the ancient cloister, have been the object of several archeological digs.
The site will be closed for renovation until the end of 2010.
The projects in progress consist of the creation of a roof protecting the cloister and the installation of an exhibit space for the collection of objects uncovered during the digs.
The crypt was classified on Feb. 26, 1850. The entire site (church and surroundings) was classified Aug. 10, 1977.