The relics of St. Foy were originally displayed in a shrine in the choir, encircled by a fine wrought-iron screen protecting it from thieves .The screen was made from the melted-down fetters of pilgrims who had been freed from captivity in Muslim-occupied Spain thanks to the intercession of St. Foy. The statue itself has since been moved to a small...more
The Sainte-Foy abbey-church in Conques was a popular stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, in what is now Spain. Its construction was begun on the foundations of a smaller earlier basilica, directed by the abbot Odolric (1031-1065) and completed around the year 1120. It was built in Romanesque style, using a warm-colored local...more
The most famous thing about the church in Conques is the carvings above the door. The Pilgrims visiting would have been under no illusion as to the fate that would await them if they did not say their prayers and be good chrisitians.On one side you can see the angels and heavens gate , in the centre Jesus Christ and on the other side devils and...more
The little, very old town of Conques (pop. 400) sits in the northern tip of Aveyron barely in the Midi-Pyrenees, far from anywhere, waiting for the occasional tourist, although it has the greatest Romanesque exhibits in France, the equal of any in the world. It is a little dilapidated, but authentic to the core. Of course its main attraction the...more
Niches were created along the outer South wall of the nave where it was possible to put tombs and monuments. These have been despoiled over the centuries but the one that housed the tomb of Begon III is still identified for us. To the south of the church is the walled cemetery which makes a pretty view from the belvedere at Bancarel (See Off the...more
Build a better mouse trap and ... The quiet establishment of Conques can only grow. There was not even a place to stay in town back then, when we were there, but there are a few now and the idyllic location in Grand-Fabre (see Off the Beaten Path and Hotel Tips) where we stayed is still there. The liberality of Art gifts to the State and other...more
The Treasure is one of the two museums that are part of your Conques visit. The major items are housed with Ste.-Foy and carefull preserved and exhibited. The major pieces date from about 1100 AD although parts of them may be from earlier times (or have apocryphal provenances of earlier origins. They are all examples of early Romanesque goldsmith...more
The famous miracle-working 10C reliquary-statue of the 12 year old saint sits in a special sealed glass chamber in subdued light at the end of a long museum room lined with other relics: the great treasures of Conques. (We are not good photographers and our pictures do not do justice to the phenomenon which is the statue, so we include a copy from...more
Most central areas of cloisters are green. Usually in an appropriate corner is a fountain or water fed basin for the monks' ablutions. A few cloisters substitute a central well. Some of these structures are quite elaborately done (as in Monreale,Sicily). The excavation of the destroyed cloister area at Conques revealed many surprises. There had...more
One gallery and a short segment of the cloister have been restored after a fashion merely to indicate the space it occupied and to replace a part of its courtyard and magnificent central pool. It had double arched bays, similar to the bays in the gallery of the church, plus a central entry bay. The divisions of the bays are double colonnettes with...more
Like all large churches, the church of Ste.-Foy was built in stages. It started at the choir-altar area and finished with the West front over the period 1031-1125. The rebirth of Western sculpture was occurring nearby at Moissac (under guidance from the church authorities from Toulouse). The stimulus was a desire to religiously educate the pilgrims...more
The Annunuciation may be the first great sculpture of the 12C. It predates the column statues of Chartres and the Eve of Autun. There are three "in the round figures" (we are sorry that our picture does not show the servant girl standing behind Mary). As would be expected the 5 figures are derived from columns but are not as stiff as most others...more
The church is an excellent example of a Romanesque pilgrimage-monastery church. The nave is tall (22m) and 6 short bays in length with single square bay aisles on each side. The sanctuary is like an extension of the nave succeeded by a half-domed horseshoe choir that has tall columns. The aisles continue laterally and behind this as an ambulatory....more
There is a mystery to the tympanum. If you look carefully at the archivolts which are plain bands and focus on the outer band, you will see periodic excrescences. Examine these! A pair of binoculars or a zoo lens will help. What you will see are partial heads which are peering over the"rim" of the bands and holding on by their hands, which are...more
Here the sculptor(s) let their imagination run wild. The sins illustrated are beyond our ken, so we will guess at the titles. This is something to try by yourself (a guide-book might help). There are a few that are obvious: Greed. Slander, etc. Many are being shoved into the mouth of the monster (Leviathan, near center lower level).more
On Christ's right hand are the saved. The problems preceding salvation are delineated. Easily missed is the role of Ste. Foy (whose church we are at). She is seen prostrating herself before the Hand of God showing His sanction of her wishes. It is on the diagonal of the lower level. At the center at this level the weighing of the souls between...more
We spent two nights at an Inn in Grand-Vabre (see Hotel Tip) just 3 km north of Conques on D901. It is used as a base to the Dourdou valley by boaters and fishermen and there are hiking trails and camping around this beautiful area. In the town near a memorial cross is a very old chapel (restored through a contribution from a local man who...more
The area of the valley of the Dourdou seems to be a hidden secret of French outdoor enthusiasts. We were too old and did not have the time to devote to this but the groups of people we saw and encountered were following hiking trails, using kayaks and canoes, riding bikes or fishing. The scenery was splendid and even in October it was mild. (None of them were visiting the miraculous Conques church).
Equipment: There seem to be sites that will provide the appropriate equipment and pick-ups if you are just going down-stream for instance. They are indicated (sort of) in the Conques website.
The Statue and the fabulous Treasury that was acquired around her are still here to view because Conques is so "isolated", after all the ignorance of others, makes this experience blissful. When the French Revolution occurred, the people of Conques were not involved although the monastery was disbanded and the monks left. By this time it had atrophied and was no longer the rival of Cluny with branches as far away as Selestat. When the townspeople heard that the government was confiscating all church valuables to be melted down and sold, they reported that a robbery had occurred and they were all stolen. Since Conques was small and remote and there being no pre-existing records, an agent easily verified the"facts". They all reappeared in the church when Napoleon III reestablished the Catholic faith. Shortly the whole of Conques was discovered by Prosper Merimee. The story reads like something he would have loved to have written!
Fondest memory: Everything about it, we spent the whole day here! (The X century silk cloth was wrapped about a piece of the saint's skull bone in the reliquary when studied in 1955). (See picture#3).