Interview. party The former mayor of Salviac dedicates a book to the secrets of the Olmsk Virgin

Notre Dame de l’Olm, polychrome Virgin and Child, 17th centuryd in the purest Occitan Baroque style. (©Luc Gétreau)

Alain Faucon publishes a fascinating book called Lady Olm. This book is an opportunity for the chosen one Salviac for 25 years to convey the history of his village and community with its beliefs and hopes.

The book clarifies many questions: when was the current Olm chapel built? Who commissioned its construction? Who was the sponsor in the 17th century of the Virgin and Child and, above all, what did this statue represent to the inhabitants? As the ethnologist and museographer Malika Bordes-Boudell explains in the foreword: “As a detective who combines research, reading, hypotheses and modesty, Alain Faucon managed to combine in this book the essence of this adventure. »

Alain Faucon has always been fascinated by the history of the men and women who made Salviac. In 1989, he was already known thanks to the exhibition “La Révolution” in Salviac. He then participated in the creation of the Association “Animation et Culture” to highlight the church of Saint-Jacques-le-Major and its treasury, some of which are now protected as historical monuments. Alain Faucon is also an active member of the Rocamino association, which aims to promote and organize the route to Santiago de Compostela via Rocamadour. During his mandate, he contributed to the organization of excavations for the protection of the Gallo-Roman archaeological site of Plantada and the restoration of the church, as well as the vault of Olm and its altar. Finally, Alain Faucon contributed to the rehabilitation of Louis Benoit, unjustly executed, for example, in 1916, and the installation of a stele in honor of the Righteous of the Commune. He could make UNESCO’s own motto: “Transmit to give a sense of individual and collective belonging: to history, to the village.” »

A wedding and a chapel to seal the peace

Alain Faucon combines the tenacity of a researcher with the true talent of a storyteller to speak of Salviac's legacy.
Alain Faucon combines the tenacity of a researcher with the true talent of a storyteller to speak of Salviac’s legacy. (©Luc Gétreau)

News: How do you explain the location of the chapel of the Virgin of Olmska, as we know it today?

Alain Faucon: This modest building was built on the site of an old chapel, which itself replaced the Gallo-Roman cult established in the hollow of an elm in Occitania – an olm on the banks of Easter Creek. According to legend, this sanctuary was Christianized by Saint Genulf around the 5th century and equipped with the first statue of the Virgin Mary. But the current Olm chapel dates back to the Renaissance and was built in 1572. In the political context of the time, in the midst of religious wars, alliances were made and broken according to the events and interests of each. Thus, taking advantage of the situation of peace and military victory, Armand de Gonto-Biron in January 1572 decided to marry his niece and godfather Charlotte, who remained an orphan, the daughter of his brother Foucault of the Protestant party, to Geoffroy de Durfort-Boissiere, the son of a Catholic lord Salviac, Jacques 1 de Durfort-Boissiere.

Will the chapel built for the occasion mark the return of the Catholic party of Foucault de Gonto-Biron’s daughter?

FA: It is likely and extremely political. Because what could be more symbolic, at that time, to show one’s “good faith” than to build on the residence of Archbishop Salviak? who manages almost 26 parishes in Buryan? and in the most important fortress of the seigniory, the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the symbol most opposed by Protestants? This marriage of Geoffroy and Charlotte precedes by several months locally what King Charles IX and Queen Mother Catherine de’ Medici will attempt to bring peace to the kingdom: the marriage of the Protestant leader, the future Henry IV. , who became King of Navarre, sister of King Margaret of Valois,? Queen Margot. Unfortunately, this royal marriage, which was supposed to be a peace treaty, precedes the terrible massacre of St. Bartholomew by five days.

Moreover, in these times of religious wars, even the new chapel was not bypassed?

FA: In effect. Thus, in 1588, Marshal Arnaud de Biron with his army retreated to Salviac and besieged Casals and Hinda, the strongholds of the Protestants. He destroys their fortifications. After his departure, a punitive expedition will arrive to sack Notre-Dame de l’Olm. And it will be necessary to wait for the Edict of Nantes, and then the nomination in 1636 of Alain de Solmignac as bishop of Caor, in Bourian, destroyed by 36 years of civil war, to foresee the restoration of the chapel of Olme. . Probably to Alain de Solmignac and as part of the Counter-Reformation we can attribute the commission of a new statue of the Virgin and Child, probably to the family workshop of Tournier, a very famous joiner from Gourdon.

Place of intercession

What did this chapel and its statue mean to Salviaqua?

FA: The more I progressed in my research for this book, the more I was struck by the importance of this chapel in the history of Salviac. Very early, given the harshness of the times, the chapel and its statue were popular among the people of Salviac and the surrounding area. Our Lady of Olmska collects their prayers and their hopes, thus placed under God’s mercy and entrusted to the intercession of the Mother of God of Olmska. These poor salviaks need it badly! Because the Hundred Years’ War, plague, religious wars, and then the Thirty Years’ War did not cease to bring new misfortunes and deaths to the modest inhabitants of Burian. The reputation of the Mother of God of Olmsk is becoming the reputation of a great protector of women and children, who intercedes in difficult childbirths. It will spread in the region. From 1847 until the end of the 19th century, services were regularly held in the chapel during Marian holidays. They come here on pilgrimage. Ex-votos are placed there. You pass through it on your way to Santiago de Compostela, from Rocamadour to La Romieux. Women, mothers, wives still come to pray at Notre-Dame de l’Olm during the War of 1870 and the 14-18 War, which claimed the lives of 70 young people from the town. But the chapel eventually remains abandoned. In 1937, the vault collapsed. The young ladies Passephon, Marie and Jacqueline, the heirs and guardians of the temple, repaired the temple, but the dampness wreaked havoc and damaged the altarpiece. They would eventually sell it to the Mazier family.

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What were the main steps of his rescue?

FA: The chapel will be registered in the register of historical monuments in June 1954. The statue of the Virgin was then hidden to avoid possible robbery and further damage. In 2010, an emphythetic lease was finally signed between the owner’s family and the municipality. With the assistance of the Department of Antiquities and Works of Art, DRAC and Buildings France, restoration is underway. The statue becomes the central element of the treasure of the church of Saint-Jacques-le-Major. The altarpiece in the chapel was restored by Radez et Moreau in Montauban. In recent months, a subscription has made it possible to make a replica of Notre Dame de l’Olm on a polymer base, which will allow the work to find its place on the altar during the inauguration, scheduled for August 21. For Salviac and its residents, this will be another unmissable encounter with Notre Dame de l’Olm.

Transmission history

Endowed with very beautiful iconography and woodcuts borrowed from the register of the Chapelle de l’Olm, Alain Faucon’s work offers us a plot in which the humble chapel and the magnificent Virgin of Olm are the main protagonists. But this book also tells us about the persistence of the researcher, about how collective memory and local identity are restored, transmitted or lost in the absence of smugglers. Thus, from the 54 pages written by Jacques de Salviac, a student of Cahors at the end of the 16th century, to Émile Conduchet, who will provide the transcription, the book unites a whole chain of chroniclers and believers, all driven by the desire to save each time in the extreme that can be. And it is a wonder that neither wars, nor epidemics of plague, nor revolutions, nor oblivion, nor old or new barbarism managed to erase this will to memory. Behind the modest chapel of Notre-Dame de l’Olm and its statue, one can guess a whole chapter of the history of Salviac.

This chapel, this Virgin of Olmsk and this new book are an invitation to take stock of what women and men of patient faith have left for us to share. Alain Faucon’s book also ends with a wonderful address to passers-by by Emile Conduchet, a great forerunner in the defense of our Boer heritage:

As you pass, stop before this tiny shrine, where a whole race of French peasants for ten centuries bore their sufferings and their joys. »

The book La Dame de l’Olm is offered at a cost price of €10 and you can check it out now at the Salviac post office.

And when we ask Alain Faucon if he has any projects, he answers with a mischievous smile:

? Maybe a Salviak story if I can find the energy! And time…


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