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Conques Abbey, Conques, Aveyron

The Abbey at Conques, Aveyron

The Abbey-Church of Ste Foy is like Moissac, one of the most outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe. The Abbey has survived better than Moissac because of the location of the village, Conques is tucked well away from mainstream life today, although it was the centre of it for centuries; Conques was another stopping place on the pilgrimage trail, and benefited enormously from the trade it brought.

St Foy was a 12-year girl, originally named Fides (Faith), who refused to worship the Roman emperor Maximian as a god, and was martyred in Agen, south west of Conques, in 286AD. She was first roast on a grid, then beheaded. It's believed that her remains were brought to Conques about a 100 years later.

The Abbey Treasury at Conques holds a number of gold and jewelled relics of enormous value, unfortunately we weren't allowed to photograph any of them because of their value. I took some photos of the columns inside the Abbey; the carvings on the capitals are very well preserved; some of them show the trial and martyrdom of Fides, others show events from church life but unfortunately the film didn't survive the journey home.

The second photograph shows the tympanum of the Abbey; it's huge, nearly 22 feet wide and 10 feet high, it has 124 figures, and much of the original colour still showing. It depicts the Last Judgement, with scenes of heaven and hell. I was amazed to find such a thing in such an isolated place, knowing absolutely nothng about Conques except that we were here on a restaurant-hunt. It was a very educational day for me.

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