The Saint-Laurent collegiate church in Estavayer-le-lac is an elegant gothic building. The bell tower is a prominent part of the town's skyline. Its stalls, railings and altar are particularly remarkable.
The collegiate church in Estavayer-le-Lac was built on the remains of a Romanesque sanctuary between 1379 and 1525.
The last part to be completed was the bell tower with four échauguettes (overhanging loggias) and a spire. It is said to have one of the most beautiful chimes in the canton. The eight bells were cast between the 15th and 20th centuries. Estavayer-le-Lac had its own bell founder: in 1865, Charles Arnoux received a commission that encouraged him to move to the town permanently. Until 1945, the year in which electricity was installed in the clock and bells, the bell ringer lived in the tower where he had a small bedroom. The bells have a series of refrains, programmed to be heard over the course of the seasons and the liturgical calendar. The lower floor of the bell tower was reserved for the lookout.
The paintings inside the church are from the 16th century. The molasse Annunciation dates from the early 15th century. The baroque high altar (1638-1640) is one of the masterpieces of the Fribourg sculptor Jean-François Reyff. The exceptional stalls (priests' seats) and the celebrant's seat were sculpted in around 1520, by Mattelin Vuarser from Geneva.
In 1530, the clergy of Estavayer acquired four antiphonaries (books of plainsong) from Berne cathedral. These manuscripts are some of the most remarkable works of miniature illustration in Switzerland. Nearly 500 heads of cattle were required to produce the vellum for the 2,000 pages, which have not yellowed over time.
A church is known as collegiate when it is served by several priests.
In the stalls, a series of hand rests represent animal heads with open mouths. Was this a caricature of the canons' singing?