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Along the Via Podensis pilgrims directed their way over harsh terrain and through inhospitable lands to reach a remote sanctuary, the great abbey of Conques.  There were housed the relics of a virgin martyr of the Roman persecutions of the early fourth century.

Sainte Foy’s reputation for miracles was celebrated throughout Europe.conques-ts-early-dawn The monastic church was the first of the five great pilgrimage basilicas built at the end of the eleventh century, one of which was the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. They were all built to the same plan with the purpose of accommodating the vast crowd of pilgrims who came to venerate the saintly relics.

Conques had grown from a small hermitage located by a mountain spring into one of the most powerful and eminent monasteries  of its day. An impoverished abbey, its fortunes changed considerably for the better when the monks audaciously stole the relics of their miracle working saint from another monastery in the year 866.

They had encased the relics in an imposing gold reliquary statue studded with precious gems. conques-ste-foy-mcuThis was the Majesty of Sainte Foy. It was kept on the high altar and was protected by a wrought iron grille forged from the chains and manacles of prisoners released from captivity by the saint’s intercession and then come to Conques to offer the instruments of their oppression as ex-votos.  The figure was seated on a throne, symbol of the saint’s role as judge over human affairs.

The head was reputedly constructed from the death mask of a Roman emperor. Inside the bones were wrapped in a shroud of  imperial purple linen from Byzantium. The sick and lame came to pray before the golden reliquary famous for restoring eyesight to the blind.

The news of the saint’s miracles spread. In 1013 Bernard of Angers a cleric from the north visiting Conques was impressed by what he saw; “What was true through God’s will could not be suppressed and belief in its truth was already spreading through all Europe”, he wrote.conques-chevet-2

Conques became a vital station on the pilgrimage road to Compostela and its monks  were installed as abbots and bishops in monasteries and towns recently recovered from Saracen rule by the Crusaders of the Spanish Reconquest. Its territory and possessions grew and included numerous establishments along the pilgrim road such as the monastery at Roncevaux.

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  1. […] This route led through rugged and inhospitable regions but in spite of the difficulties of this route its popularity was assured by the presence at one of the most remote monasteries of France: the abbey of Conques. […]

  2. […] Le Puy-en-Velay, home to  a prehistoric healing  dolmen. At Conques was the reliquary statue of Sainte Foy renowned for her miracle working powers. Further on was the  abbey of Moissac on the banks of the […]

  3. […] Faith, Sainte Foy, Tympanum The tympanum sculpture above the western entrance to the abbey of Conques is one of the most imposing works of Romanesque stone sculpture. It was created in the first half […]

  4. […] of Isaac appears frequently in Romanesque art. Examples can be seen on interior capitals at Autun, Conques and St Sernin de Toulouse and at the cloister of Moissac. It is also featured on the trumeau at […]

  5. By Masks « The Joining of Heaven & Earth on 28 Feb 2010 at 12:03 am

    […] with the Leviathan as described in the Book of Job and which is featured on the porch sculptures at Conques and Espalion devouring the Damned. In Job the question is put, who can “draw out Leviathan with […]

  6. […] of the five great pilgrimage churches built to the same plan which included Saint Martin of Tours, Sainte Foy of Conques, Saint Sernin of Toulouse and Santiago de Compostela itself. All these buildings were constructed […]

  7. […] out by the same sculptor or workshop responsible for the capitals in the church and cloister at Conques. The same hand has been attributed to several capitals in the eastern end of the cathedral at […]

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