On the road to France: Conques in the mountains

First of November 2019, we drive through the mountains of the Auvergne to Conques. 

Source: Google Maps

The weather is misty and rainy. We drive through the Aubrac. Through chestnut trees, the road takes us down to the Lot valley.

We cross the river Lot, reach Conques and settle in the Auberge Saint Jacques.

Conques became an important pilgrim place, after the relics of Saint Foye had been moved here (the story goes that a monk from Conques had stolen the relics in the monastery of Agen, where they had been located before).

The Abbey Church of Sainte-Foye was built from the middle of the XIth to the early XIIth century.

The main portal is decorated with the beautiful tympanon showing the Last Judgment (late Romanesque style). About 120 figures populate the tympanon. It can still be recognized that the Last Judgment was originally painted in colors.

Christ sits in the middle. To his right is Paradise (his right hand up), to the left is Hell (his left hand down ).

Below Christ, Archangel Michael and the grinning devil are facing one another. Between them is a set of scales, and the devil is touching one of the pans. Farther below, Petrus welcomes those that enter Paradise and a devil throws the condemned subjects into the gorge of a wild animal – this is the entry to Hell.

In Paradise, all is fine and people are arranged around the Bosom of Abraham.

Above to the right of Christ (seen from his viewoint), there are the donator and the founder of the abbey with Charlemagne lead by the hand.

I feel overwhelmed, when entering the church. The nave is 22m high and seems to reach into heaven. The decoration is sober which adds to the solemnity.

A colored medaillon decorates the top of the crossing. To the sides of the naves are galleries with double openings.

Next to the church is the cemetery, for All Saints’ Day beautifully decorated with flowers.

Across the church is the exhibition of the rich treasure of the abbey with the statue of Sainte Foye (no fotos allowed).

The small Museum of Joseph Fau has been carefully arranged and shows tapestry from the early 17th century such as this representation of the three women at the empty sepulcher of Christ.

It is pouring with rain. We see some pilgrims with short trousers wrapped up in their rain capes. I shiver and admire them for undertaking this long, long walk along the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostella. We imagine, how dangerous this was in medieval times, especially here in the rough mountains of the Auvergne. We return to our cosy hotel named after St. James and have dinner.

The next morning we return to the church and the cloister. I discover this fountain with the conch of St. James in the middle and with the reflection of the Abbey Church ornated with the coins thrown into the fountain.

We look back and say good-bye to Conques.

Our next target is Moissac.

Sources: Noël Graveline: “Die romanischen Schätze in der Auvergne”, Edition Debaisieux, 2006 und Thorsten Droste: “Romanische Bauten in Frankreich, DuMont Kunstreiseführer Köln 1992.


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