Madonna del Poggio (Madone del Poggio), former priory of Lérins

The Madonna del Poggio dominates a very steep natural area, at the confluence of Roya and Bendola rivers. It is bordered by RD 138 road.

Typology Building

Period Before 1380

Accessibility No

Visitable No

On January 4th, 1092, the population of Saorge donated the recently completed Church of St. Mary, and its outbuildings in the Bendola, to the Abbey of Lérins (Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, France). The monks of Lérins engaged in return to celebrate the daily services and prayers for the dead.

The first Lombard Romanesque art is characterized, for the architecture of the churches, by a basilical plan with collateral with three apses and external lateral steeple. Chapels and churches had very few openings.

The Madonna del Poggio thus presents a basilical plan composed of a nave with three spans, flanked by two collaterals in shed, extended by an apse and two apsidioles in cul-de-four (quarter-sphere valt).

The capitals of the four columns, similar to Breil’s (Mount Madonna and old village church, reused at the war memorial), and their placement on short columns between large semicircular arches, show that these reconstructions with elevations were contemporary, perhaps in the fourteenth century, following the same unidentified cause of destruction.

The barrel vault of the main nave is supported by high walls above the arcades separating it from the collaterals. This nave is lit by side bays located at the top. The collaterals, also covered with barrel vaults, are lower.

Perhaps reusing its original base, the side tower was rebuilt in 1511. Thirty meters high and 4.6 meters wide, it is of late Lombard Romanesque style. It has 7 levels and is covered with a six-sided pyramid.

On the initial lateral portal, the remains of a fresco, cleaned and stabilized in 2000, are visible. It has several boxes. In the tympanum we observe the coronation of the Virgin surmounted by angels. The Annunciation by the angel Gabriel is visible in the lower register, accompanied by a phylactery. Two protective saints frame the whole. Remains of texts in Gothic character can date the fresco around 1470. The style encourages attributing this fresco to Jean Baleison, who worked in the region at that time.

Conditions of visit

Take RD 138 road, from RD 6204 road, under the village of Saorge. Nearby parking.

Allowed access except in the private garden to the west.

Occasional Public Opening (Heritage Days) / Restricted Visits (Private Property)


Additional information


  • Botton Charles et Gaber Jean, Histoire de Saorge et Fontan, Les Editions du Cabri, Breil-sur-Roya, 2009.
  • Cabagno Joseph, Visite archéologique, historique et religieuse de Saorge « Village monumental », Mémoires, Tome XV, Institut de préhistoire et d’archéologie des Alpes-Maritimes, 1971-1972.
  • Cabagno Joseph, La charte d’offrande du 4 janvier 1092 et ses incidences Saorgiennes, Nice historique no 23, 1972
  • Imbert Léo, Les chapelle peintes du pays niçois, Nice historique no151, 1951.
  • Thévenon Luc, L’art du Moyen Âge dans les Alpes méridionales, Éditions Serre (collection patrimoines), Nice, 1983.
  • Thirion Jacques, La Madone del Poggio, Nice historique no214, 1959.
  • Thirion Jacques, Influences de l’Italie du Nord sur l’art roman de la Provence orientale, Actes 2e Congrès Historique Provence-Ligurie, Fed. Hist. De Provence, Aix, 1971.
  • Thirion Jacques, La Madone del Poggio, nouveaux regards, Nice historique, no533, 2006.
  • Thirion Jacques, Alpes romanes, Éditions du Zodiaque, collection La nuit des temps no 54, 1980

Useful links

Non documenté.