Abbeys of the French Pyrenees

Posted on July 5, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

View from South

The first of our day trips from Narbonne (last Wednesday) was to a couple of abbey churches in the Pyrenees mountains near the Spanish border. The first church is called St Michel de Cuxa and stands in a very pretty valley setting in the middle of nowhere.

View with Car

View with our rental car, looking north

View from Abbey

View from the same spot, looking south

Sadly we arrived in that witching hour between noon and 2pm in which everything in France is closed. It was 1:30 so we considered waiting, but decided instead to go on to the next one and come back later. We did come back, but 10 minutes before it closed for the night and they wouldn't let me in. Very sad, as the cloister has some great sculptures! We'll just have to return as part of a northern Spain trip someday.

By the time we got to our next destination, which was about a half-hour down a narrow winding road, the weather had stopped cooperating entirely. It was cloudy and grey but also very hot and humid. This was especially unfortunate because the church, called Saint Martin du Canigou, is at the top of a mountain that you have to reach on foot. It felt like hiking in a sauna. But the landscape sure was gorgeous, and the abbey was worth it.

Path to the Top

View from East

View from Above

Mountain View

The magnificent views of the abbey and mountains from above cannot be had on the guided tour. With the help of the nice lady in the bookshop (who, surprisingly, was English) we found a steep rocky trail that led up here, past several "Danger" signs. I am so glad we did.

We could only visit the abbey on a guided tour conducted by a young nun in French, but she spoke slowly enough that I could actually understand some of it, and we were able to take pictures, which is wonderful.

Cloister from Above

South Gallery of the Cloister

Cloister Capital: Monks at Mass

Cloister Capital: Human Figures

Cloister Capital: Winged Ram

Column Base

Upper Church Interior

Crypt: South Aisle Looking West