Tour est, salle 7

Although this tower is the oldest of the three, it’s the only one to reveal vestiges of polychromies on a whitewash render dated late XIIth c.

The ground floor room has been fitted with a bath tub to illustrate hygiene, cleanliness and beauty in the Middle Ages, all of which hadn’t been forgotten by then. Furthermore, taking baths was revitalized after the Crusades when crusaders visited Constantinople and its “Turkish baths” on their way back from the Levant.

However, cities in Europe remained very dirty and polluted with organic and chemical pollutions (tanneries, pottery, dyeing factories…). Private bathrooms were unknown to most city-dwellers, especially to the newly arrived, seeking work and better living conditions, or forced away from their homes because of warfare or hunger.

Public bath-houses existed but they were scarce (26 for 200 000 Parisians in the mid-XIIIth c.) and overall, city-dwellers’ hygiene remained poor and rudimentary throughout the period. Conditions were better in castles and amongst peasant communities.

One starts to be wary of water towards the end of the medieval period, after the devastating XIVth c. plagues.

A third of European population disappeared in one year (1347-48) during the Black Death.

In addition to this, spa-towns like Bourbon were systematically associated with prostitution and lust, and taking baths by and large, became suspicious. The church progressively discouraged people from using both. Doctors started recommending baths solely for medical reasons. Another factor to be considered here is that public bath waters were pumped into the rivers, which were awfully filthy. We now think this came into consideration when bathing started to lose enthusiasts.

Look at the lime rendering on the wall, on which was drawn a now faded false-stone pattern in red ochre, simple horizontal lines and double vertical ones.

The splayed vaults of the arrow-slits have also been decorated with the same false-stone red pattern.

The wall-arches were framed by a set of two red and yellow strips. Look carefully at the jack-arches (the arches located at the intersection of the wall and the segments of the vault, divided by the ribs), you will notice medallions and two faded fleurs-de-lis.

One out of every two voussoirs of the ribs were plain red.

Beneath the chamfered abacuses, the crocket consoles are representative of the late XIIth century gothic style. They rest on human figures, whose hair was uniformly painted in yellow outlined in black; the crockets were outlined in red and blue.

A red strip outlined the consoles and ended in a triangle with a ring. This pattern was inverted and used on the stairwell door-lintel, note the groove filled with red ochre.

Note that all the figures stare straight ahead with bulging eyes.

There is only one lightwell in this room.


In the archway, note the traces of a fire, which could be a sign of damage caused by English mercenaries around 1365, during the One Hundred-Year war.

 © March 2023

GILBERT TALBOURDEAU, western tower, ground floor decor 1910, Fonds Clément-Evêché, Archives Départementale de l’Allier
These sketeches are from Pierre-Gélis Didot and Laffilée (1884) who dated this decoration from the XIVth c. when in fact, it is from the XIIIth c.
Gélis-Didot et Lafflilée