August 19

A tourist in Conques      6km

Every French meal is served with bread. The French wipe their plates clean with the bread which is a habit that would be frowned on in an English restaurant. I think it is eminently practical just like every meal is accompanied by a free supply of water. We have things to learn from the French. This was my lunchtime salad snack:
Followed by a coffee. I have been converted to drinking these tiny cups of strong black coffee. In France if you order a cup of coffe this is what is served. 
You know I think I will have to return to France, to leisurely lunches on a warm terrace with a glass of rosé. 

This small town of Conques has escaped the development of the motor car. The streets are the same width and shape they must have been a thousand years ago. Just delightful. 

An old town gate. 

The centre of the town, culturally and physically is the Cathedral of Saint Foy. 

In Agen in the year 303 a twelve year old girl was martyred and became Saint Foy. 

Five centuries later the idea of venerating the physical remains of saints and holy persons became very popular and these bits of bones brought wealth and prestige to monasteries and abbeys. Conques was an insignificant Abbey and thought it needed a relic. By trickery in 866 the remains of Saint Foy were seized from the monastery in Agen (many kilometres distant). This was a theft discreetly called a ‘furtive transfer’!!

As a result of the growing prosperity generated by visiting pilgrims the Abbey was built and the spiritual and artistic influence of Conques continued for three centuries. 

The Cathedral has a 12th century masterpiece of The Last Judgement over the entrance

However is is the inside that surprises. The arches are staggeringly high and there is a wonderful airy feel. 

I love cloisters:

There are plenty of tourists – but not too many. 

There are a couple of working bread ovens in the town though they don’t seem to have been used very recently:

The old town was walled and a dry moat was dug also. It is built on a very steep, sunny hillside so it must have been easy to defend. These bread ovens were built outside the town walls to reduce the risk from fire!!

It is a very picturesque place.