On the road to France: To Moissac with the Abbey Saint Pierre

On second of November 2019, we continue our way to Moissac.

Source: Google Maps.

We have booked a room in the centrally located Maison Lydia, where friendly Beatrice welcomes us with a Refreshing drink.

Immediately we set out to explore the famous cloister of the Abbey Saint-Pierre.

88 columns dance around the meadow and the huge cedar, alternating between single and double columns. The capitals are richly decorated. This is the baptism of Christ…

… and this is the dinner of Herod, when John the Baptist was killed – here he is in prison about to be decapitated.

In the middle and at the egdes are larger columns, mostly with portraits of apostles or prophets such as this Petrus.

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The capitals are damaged and difficult to see in the misty, rainy weather. See, how the rain is running down from the roof.

We escape to the side rooms, where we find a well curated museum with films that explain the works of art, in particular the beautiful porch. With what we learnt here, we look at the porch.

This is the tympanon with Christ in the middle above eight rosettes.

Around him are the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse, all turning their heads towards Christ, while playing an instrument.

The right hand side of the porch shows the life of Christ. The top relief has to be read from right to left: Simon holds Christ on his arms tenderly looking at the child. Then there is Joseph, who is told by an angel that he should take Maria and her son to escape to Egypt. They escape with Maria and her child on the donkey and reach Egypt, where the former gods fall down from the walls.

The left hand side is dedicated to a variation of the Last Judgement: In the top panel, a rich couple eat and drink eagerly. They live in luxury, while sick Lazarus is about to starve outside – a dog licks his wounds. But then, the rich man dies and falls into Hell, while an angel takes Lazarus to Paradise, where he sits in the Bosom of Abraham.

In the center of the porch (trumeau) there are statues of St. Peter, St.Paul and the Prophet Jeremy, the latter being Ursula’s favorite: Jeremy stands, his legs crossed and his head bent down to the side, with his eyes looking “inside”.

Animals creep up on the sides of the portal. My favorite is this dog.

Inside the church, we find more works of art from the 12th and the 15th century such as the Romanesque Christ or the Gothic Holy Family on the way to Egypt. A panel explains that Saint Cyprien, bishop in Carthago (Africa), was martyred in 258 and his relics were transfered to Moissac in 1122. This is, how he became the patron saint of Moissac.

Building the monastery has been completed in 1100. The golden times of this Benedictine monastery were in the 11th and 12th century. It was related with Cluny.

We return to our Maison Lydia to warm up  from the rain. Then we have a delicious dinner near the Abbey.

Tomorrow we will continue our way to Roncesvalles. We expect more rain. Though traveling in our car, we feel a  bit like pilgrims.

 

Sources: Presentation at the cloister of the Abbey Saint Pierre; Thorsten Droste: “Romanische Kunst in Frankreich”, DuMont Kunstreiseführer, Köln 1992; Chantal Fraïsse: “Die Abtei Saint-Pierre von Mossaic”, Yann Le Chevalier, 2019.

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