Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges

Trip to Not Aude: Day 7
After Mirepoix, we skirted the lower slopes of the Pyrenees to land up at the town of St. Gaudens. We hadn't intended to go that far -- we'd been on the lookout for a charming B&B in some little village on the way. Unfortunately, that seemed to have been a big evening for charming B&Bs -- they were all full up. And so it was nearly dark when we landed up at this bland little town of St. Gaudens. And we did something we'd agreed never to do -- we rested the night at a bland Ibis budget hotel. These Ibis hotels pop up like rash or eczema on the French countryside. They are all exactly alike. They look like something produced on a conveyor belt. But on the plus side, they're cheap, and clean and you know exactly what you're getting. Anyhow, early the next day, a short drive took us to the next spot on our itinerary: the beau village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.

Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was founded by the Roman general Pompey in 72 BC as a colony to defend the Aran Valley. It was called Lugdunum Convenarum in those times. Later, in the 11th century, a cathedral was established there: Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, which gave the village its present name. The cathedral is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This is what Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges looks like, perched on a hill, as you approach.



The first few houses, as you enter the village.



The cathedral of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. It was built in several stages, and has sections built in 12th, 14th and 16th centuries with Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance influences.


The tomb of St. Bertrand.



There is a central enclosed choir stalls of oak and walnut, with magnificent sculptures on the back of the stalls.



We actually sat in the stalls and attended Sunday morning mass. We were rather lucky in that we got there at the right time. A local baby was baptized, which was rather fun. The baby was the star of the show. It was the first time I'd witnessed a baptism, or sung hymns in French.


This part dates from the 16th century, and contrasts rather violently with the older Gothic and Romanesque surroundings.






The cloisters of the cathedral





More pics of the village. I loved this blacksmith's shop. He makes authentic medieval weaponry for hobbyists and enthusiasts. He was actually at work in the attached smithy, but I don't think he would have appreciated me taking a picture... especially as we had no intention of buying anything (all terribly expensive).






A couple of other interesting places





 The town hall and another public building

On the approach to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, there is a smaller church, the Basilica of St. Juste, which is just as historic.


Another small chapel nearby. Not sure of its name and if it's historic, but it looks charming. Too bad a stupid @$#@# parked his truck in front of it.


 A roman funerary pile: just to prove this colony was set up by the Romans.






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