Beautiful Conques Abbey

Posted on July 8, 2008 by Holly Hayes
Part of: The Great European Road Trip

View from Above

Yesterday we drove an hour and 45 minutes north to a little village in the mountains called Conques (pronounced "conk"). It was absolutely worth the trip, which was relaxed and scenic, too. The church in Conques is one of the best Romanesque churches I've ever visited. And it's in the middle of a wonderful little village, which still has all its medieval streets and buildings. And finally, the wonderful village is situated in a grand location among forest-covered mountains. We spent many enjoyable hours there and it still didn't quite feel like enough.

West Front and Plaza

The Abbey Church of Saint Foy was built from about 1050 to 1120 to house the relics of Foy, a young girl who was martyred in 303. Interestingly, Conques Abbey didn't originally have her relics - in 876, a monk stole them from a nearby abbey! This thievery actually happened a lot in the Middle Ages.

Shrine of St. Foy: Front View

The saint's relics are enshrined in this unusual statue, which dates from the 800s and has the place of honor in the Treasury. She is made of wood covered with gold and precious stones given by pilgrims.

Conques became a major pilgrimage destination because of the miracles said to happen at her shrine, and because Conques was on the way to Santiago, the most popular pilgrimage site in Europe. The Church of St. Foy was built specifically to accommodate all the pilgrims, with a wide ambulatory around the shrine in the east end.

Last Judgment Tympanum

One of the great glories of Conques is this tympanum from the early 1100s, depicting the Last Judgment. The detail of the carvings is incredible, and there is still some original paint thanks to the protection of the wide arch above. In the bottom part, Heaven and Hell are shown as separate houses, each with its own door.

The Poacher

The torments of Hell are being inflicted by rather comical demons, and the punishments fit the crime. Here, for example, is a poacher who is being roasted on a spit by a vengeful rabbit!

IMG_9755 There weren't many opportunities for lunch when we finally got around to looking for it at 3:30, but we did find a place serving galettes and crepes right on the church plaza. A galette is a thicker crepe with a bit of a buckwheat taste, filled with savory (non-sweet) things like meat and cheese. Above is my galette complet, with ham, cheese and egg.