The church at Jort, which is now some distance from the present day market town, is located on the site of an ancient Gallo-Roman village on the slopes of the Dives valley, at the intersection of two major Roman roads. The village went into decline in the Middle Ages following the development of the new towns of Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives and Mézidon in the 11th century. The church, built during the second half of the 12th century, was under the patronage of nuns from Saint-Désir-de-Lisieux, who were probably responsible for its construction. It has undergone numerous restorations, and the interior in particular has been extensively modified.
The building comprises a nave flanked by aisles, transepts and a chancel with a straight east end. A bell tower rises above the crossing.
The west wall of ashlar blocks, supported by flat buttresses, comprises a central section, flanked by the side aisles, mirroring the interior layout. It was originally crowned by an antefix cross, which has now been replaced by a modern cross. Three windows pierce the façade: two round-headed, narrow openings in the aisles and one opening in the upper part of the central section, above the main doorway. This latter has a rounded arch, supported by double columns with crocket capitals and framed by a hood mould punctuated by three heads. A sculpted frieze decorates the abaci of the capitals and runs along the length of the wall, while the window is set on a scalloped dripstone. Above the window, a dentillated cornice has little figures of human and animal heads at regular intervals
The lower part of the main section of the façade projects slightly to enable the main doorway, with its numerous orders, to open in the thickness of the wall. The chamfered inner order was added by a restorer, since, until the end of the 19th century, a 16th century lintel decorated with a floral motif stood in its place. This inner order is surrounded by three further orders, supported on each side by five columns.
These columns were all remodelled, during the course of the restoration of the façade at the end of the 19th century, with copies made of the original shafts and plinths. The first two are carved with zigzag motifs, the third has interlinked arches with palmettes on the outer edge. A fourth order is ornamented solely by the voussoirs which rest on angled jambs with a slim colonette which is clearly an addition from the beginning of the 20th century, since it does not appear on a drawing of the façade dated to the end of the 19th century.
The capitals of the doorway were restored at the same time as the façade and the two innermost on each side have been remodelled. The capitals to the right of the doorway are sculpted with a floral motifs and volutes, and on the abacus wavy lines above which is a frieze with scrolls. The capitals on the left of the doorway are devoted to the representation of the human form, with small bodies slightly raised against their background, with the heads in greater relief, although very badly damaged. A frieze, similar to the one on the right is decorated with a row of palmettes.
The side walls are very simple. Those of the aisles, in herringbone masonry, have neo-Romanesque windows, added in the first half of the 20th century. They were raised by approximately 1m at this time, causing the disappearance of the corbel table above them. A neo-Romanesque doorway in concrete was also added to the northern wall. The high, dressed stone walls of the nave, have five round-headed openings on each side, which correspond to the five interior bays. A line of corbels runs along the top of the walls. The interior was extensively remodelled in the first half of the 20th century. The walls are now whitewashed and plaster rib vaults have replaced the timber framed roof of the nave and the lean-to roofs of the aisles. The pointed arches of the nave which were once supported by columns of circular cross-section are now supported by thick, hollow columns with capitals which are either plain, or sculpted with highly stylised floral motifs finished with weak crockets.
The form of the arches already shows signs of the Gothic style. Only the chancel arch, also pointed, retains typically Romanesque decoration, with, facing the nave, two bands of chevrons, and crocket capitals.
Like the rest of the church, the transepts have undergone extensive transformation. They are still, like the chancel and the east end, reinforced on the outside by flat buttresses similar to those of the façade. They are, however, pierced by 15th century windows which have replaced the lancet windows, one example of which remains in the north transept. The crossing rests on four pointed arches, the main pillars of which were replaced by corbels in the first half of the 20th century.
The chancel dates back to the beginning of the 13th century. It is divided into two bays, has a flat east end, and is still lit by the original lancet windows. These windows, like the pointed arches, evoke the Gothic style, yet are still reminiscent of the Romanesque. The arches are only slightly pointed, and the openings are framed on the outside by colonettes with capitals identical to those of the façade.
Construction of the church at Jort began in the second half of the 12th century, and was completed in the first half of the 13th century. This building, despite its unfortunate restorations, effectively illustrates the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style. Two theories have been proposed relating to its construction. According to Arcisse de Caumont, the church may have been built as a single campaign from the nave to the chancel, which would explain the similarities to be found throughout the building. According to Louis Regnier, however, it is the outcome of two completely different construction periods, the nave being dated to the third quarter of the 12th century and the transepts and chancel to the first quarter of the 13th century.
- Galeron, Statistiques de l'arrondissement de Falaise, Brée, Falaise, s.d..
T. III, 7ème cahier, p. 425-426
- Caumont Arcisse (de), Statistique monumentale du Calvados, Hardel, Caen, 1859.
T. 4., p. 646-648
- Pépin, "Notices sur les communes de : Escures, Favières et Morières, Canon, Courcy et Jort", dans Annuaire administratif du Calvados, 1873-74, p. 173
- Regnier L., "A travers la Normandie : Notes et observations archéologiques", dans Annuaire normand, 1892, T. 58, p. 279 à 308
p.280 à 284
- La Normandie monumentale et pittoresque, Lemâle, Le Havre, 1895, Calvados.
T.II, p. 73-74, 1895
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p. 71 à 80, T. III, p. 71 à 75
- Musset L., Normandie romane, Zodiaque, Sainte-Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire, 1974.
T.1, p. 34