Saturday, October 01, 2011

St-Martin-of-Canigou Abbey

Vernet-les-Bains, a charming resort town in the mountains
Our first full day in the Pyrenees we hiked up to a beautiful Abbey high in the mountains. We had packed a picnic lunch and headed for Vernet-Les-Bains, a small resort town. We had hoped to attend a harvest service at their church but couldn't find it in time. Narrow steep one way streets are exciting but hard to navigate.
The path up was close by and the day was perfect, clear and warm. It took us about an hour to climb up and the views were beautiful the whole way.

Just as we were getting hot, we entered the forest for the last section.
The Abbey was first built in 1009 as a Benedictine monestery. It was secularized by Louis XVI in 1783 and then abandoned. In 1902 the Bishop of Elne and Perpignan began restoration. He was Catalan and wanted to see this beautiful example of his culture live again. The work was completed in 1932 and it is now the home of the Catholic Community of the Beatitudes, a new organization consisting of both men and women. It's now a retreat center.

We took the guided tour in French as it's the only way to enter. Scott's comprehension is really good considering he only studied french in High School (although from 2nd grade to 10th). The cloister garden and arched wall are really beautiful. The wonderfully carved capitols, one of which is shown here, were scattered to many countries and museums when it was abandoned but many were returned when it was restored.
Afterwards we walked further up the mountain to have a bird's eye view of the abbey and enjoy our lunch in the sun.

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