Fifty miles from Vézelay pilgrims reached the crossing of the mighty Loire river. On the far shore the great priory of Notre-Dame de la Charité-sur-Loire.
Founded by Cluny in 1059 it was established with the primary intention of being a major halt on the Compostelan pilgrimage. This is made evident by the rapidity with which the site of a town which had never fully recovered from being destroyed by Saracens in 743, grew into one of the most important monastic centres in Western Europe with fifty dependent priories, further extending the power and influence of the great abbey of Cluny over the region and generally over the Limoges Road to Compostela.
By 1070 it was designated by the name Caritate which conveys the sense of the function it performed in receiving pilgrims on their way to the Galician shrine.
It had five radiating chapels and a nave measuring one hundred and fifteen metres in length.
The sculpture of the tympanum of the Transfiguration, a previously rare subject for Romanesque sculpture, particularly for such a prominent position, would seem to coincide with Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny’s introduction in 1132 of the feast of the Transfiguration into the monastic calendar. Such a dating is likely for the creation of the sculpture. In his sermon, inaugurating the new feast, he compared it with the other theophanies of the Purification of the Virgin Mary and the Epiphany both of which are represented on the lintel.
The subject of the Transfiguration also reflects on the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Apostle James for this Biblical episode wherein Jesus assumed His divine form in the presence of His three closest disciples, Peter, John and James, was also a commentary on the primal importance of the Galician saint