2010 World Monuments Watch
The church of Saint-Martin-des-Puits is nestled in the narrow valley of the Orbieu River in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Modest in size, the church is an amalgam of architectural styles and decoration dating from the 9th to 17th centuries. The pre-Romanesque apse, the earliest known element of the church, remains the core upon which centuries of structural and stylistic modifications were added. The entrance to the apse has a horseshoe-shaped arch supported by two unique columns from the Visigoth period. A central nave was later appended to the apse, and during the 11th century, a pre-Roman table was converted into an altar and detailed frescoes were added. More than 800 years later, the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso visited the church to view these remarkable frescoes. Despite the church’s testament of endurance and its impressive frescoes, the structure lacks adequate protection, making it subject to vandalism, water ingress, and continued deterioration The supporting organization, les Amis du Patrimoine dans la haute vallée de l’Orbieu, hope to mitigate the threat of water, restore the doorway for adequate closure, and conserve the frescoes. Their goal is to create public awareness, attract tourists and researchers, and steward Saint-Martin-des-Puits for present and future generations.