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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.
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.
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.
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.
Two sculpted snakes are also visible.
A rare vestige of the 14th century fortifications still stands against the bell tower.
The scale and wealth of the discoveries make it necessary to deconsecrate the parish church in 1983.
The site could then become the Saint Laurent Church Archeological Museum.
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.