A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Personal Portrait Of Conques

Conques is a wonderfully preserved medieval town — well, it's not much larger than a village really. It's a kind of architectural fly in amber, and the whole place is classified as an historic monument. There are crowds of visitors in the summer, who walk in from the car park on the edge of town, as motor vehicles are banned from the streets. Luckily the tourists all seem to disappear by late afternoon.

What's allowed and what's not allowed is strictly controlled in Conques: shops are as rare as gold dust, and street signage is so minimal that I didn't see a single balise. Consequently I nearly got lost when leaving! It's beautiful, and it's perfect — almost too perfect for me, I have to say. At times Conques can resemble a film set, or a mock medieval town without the heart and soul of a real town, without the rough and tumble, the dirt, the dung and the swearing.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my night here, because I stayed with the monks at the Abbaye Sainte-Foy, and the reception was warm and efficient, and the dormitory comfortable, and all the facilities  — showers, wash basins, washing lines — impeccable. (Though, fortunately, I had dinner that night in a restaurant — I heard later that the refectory food was tolerable but unexciting, and small of portion. Certainly the breakfast next morning was disappointing but, hey, who's complaining? The whole experience only cost a few euros, and was remarkable value for money — and I know I'm being mean-spirited, and probably unchristian, so do forgive me.)          

Stone sarcophagi behind the abbey-church of Sainte-Foy.

Entrance to the pilgrim accommodation at the Abbaye Sainte-Foy.

Abbey on the left, church on the right.

Front view of the abbey-church of Sainte-Foy.

An extraordinary Romanesque tympanum above the church's west doorway. The scene depicts the Last Judgement.

This photo makes the cobbled square in front of the abbey-church seem a little creepy. No people? Not even any pilgrims! Well, it was very early in the morning.

10 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

In that last photograph the house looks like aminiature one Robert. The whole thing is exquisite but, as you say, it is almost as though it is preserved in amber. What a glorious walk. Does C ever come with you?

Rubye Jack said...

This is such an impressive building. Amazing how large it is.

Laura said...

My husband and I stayed several nights in Conques in October 2004. We met several pilgrims but were not, then, familiar with the Camino. That particular trip took us to Vezelay and Cahors as well as Conques; all the time ignorant of the route we were on. We hiked up to the small chapel across the valley from Conques along a path through chestnut trees. It was a lovely, restful (few tourists in October) stay, but yes, a bit like living on a movie set.

Goat said...

It does look incredible, but you have to feel sorry for the poor locals who have to live on a "film set". Perhaps they should be required to dress up as peasants and general rabble like those ones in the Monty Python movie?

I've seen very little of Europe but I was impressed by the way the "altstadt"s in Switzerland were bustling, pulsing with life while still preserving their ancient charm. There were locals and their business as well as tourists, with hairdressers and ice-cream shops, say, squeezed into ancient stone facades, with still-lived-in apartments with rickety stairways jammed over them...

The Solitary Walker said...

In a word — no. Carmen likes short walks, but is not keen on long ones, Pat.

Yes, that church dominates the place, Rubye.

Just mentioned that little chapel in my latest post, Laura!

It's good when the ancient and the modern can rub along like that, isn't it, Goat...

Susan Scheid said...

Hard to keep up with you on your walk, I must say. So much to see. The village is a jewel, but, as you say, in amber. One would want a little life, no? But, a beautiful walk. Thanks for taking us along.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for visiting, Susan.

Ruth said...

Your observations are welcome, and not at all unchristian by my way of thinking. I think we do no one any favors if we are not truthful about our responses (within limits, of course; there are only certain ways one should respond to "Do I look fat in this?").

And I appreciate your perspective on the almost-too-perfect village of Conques. A collection of pretty old things does not make meaning in and of themselves. It would be interesting to spend time with residents and see what living in town is like.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your own observations, Ruth!

Heidrun Khokhar said...

I think I can take from those building pictures whatever my imagination and understanding of history allows. Spectacular shots. And I am now curious to study more details. Thanks for your perspective.