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cathedral of elne, roussillon languedoc france

ABBEYS AND CASTLES
PYRENEES ORIENTALES

Elne
Villefranche-de-Conflent
Priory of Serrabone
Monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa
Saint Martin du Canigou Abbey


 
Abbeys and Castles in the Pyrenees Orientales, Languedoc Roussillon
Elne

Hidden behind the slings and arrows of civic planning the ancient Cathedral of Ste Eulalie sits astride a hill looking over the Perpignan plain. This is a welcome stop on the drive to Collioure beaches and Spanish resorts.

The gem is the Cloister, dating back to 12th to 14th centuries, where the pillars of Ceret marble are sculpted with medieval imagination of beasts, persons, and designs. The cloister is truly worth the small entrance fee. Across from the church is a modern exhibition space, Musée Terrus, with some lovely paintings by Etienne Terrus (1857-1922, friend of Maillol, Matisse, and the Fauvistes.


Villefranche-de-Conflent
Dominated by the Pyrenees mountains surrounding it, and accessed by the almost fabled Yellow Train, this fortified town, and Fort Liberia above are well worth the drive from Perpignan.

Villefranche's battlements were designed by Vauban, and included tall walls with tiled rooves, to repel snipers and the like, and the Redoubte du Pont St. Pierre to protect the bridge over the River Têt. Even interior defenses were created because in 1674 the locals attacked the French ruling the bastion.

Accessed by a subterranean tunnel of 1000 steps, going up 180 metres, from the village, Fort Liberia - is a stupendous example of Vauban's expertise (1681) that was later improved by Napolean III (1850 -56). With its baracks, partly made from pink marble, to the guard posts that lean out of the walls, where there are great views toward Prades; and above in the higher levels where the bakery, the so-called woman's prison where a Marquise was imprisoned for poisoning and black magic - the fort is full of nooks and passageways to savor.
See more information on the Fort Liberia and Villefranche website

Priory of Serrabone

About 30 kms from Perpignan, the Augustinian Priory of Serrabone, is reached by a curving, exhilirating drive up into the Pyrenees mountains. The building dating back to the 11th century, is at its most fabulous in the internal cloister, with an arcade that overlooks a ravine.

25 columns of pink-blue marble from Villefranche with over 600 sculpted designs of eastern inspiration decorate the cloistered area on large blocks of grey shale. Medieval imagination and inspiration take flight in marvelous stone carvings of flying eagles or at rest, griffons, winged lions, symbols of saint Mark and Saint John.

Offsetting this architectural meditation the botanical gardens in the grounds give a good idea of the elixir of local botanica.

Monastery of St-Michel-de-Cuxa

Built on a broad beautiful span of ground under the peaks of Canigou, near Prades, the monastery was founded in 879 AD, with its tall multi-storeyed tower overlooking the valley floor. This was a prestigious religious center from the 9th to 17th century, when the revolution created ruination. In the early 20th century it was raped by greed and art collector - with part of its cloister packaged off to form the Cloisters in New York. In recent years the Abbey has been renovated to some of its former glory - cloistered columns deft with carved symbols and figures. It is now home to a community of Benedictine monks from Montserrat, Spain.

Saint Martin du Canigou Abbey

A short drive from the village of Vernet-Les-Bains (visited by Rudyard Kipling, and other English seekeing refreshment from their ills) is one of the principal sights of Roussillon.

St Martin du Canigou, at the top of a 30 minute walk, is a working abbey, peopled by the Beatitudes a mix of nuns and monks and others. This magnificent complex on a mountain tor (1,090 m), was begun in the 1007 with the construction of the bell tower, which was rebuilt after an earthquake. The mix of slate and terracotta rooves, greenery, the magnicent view of the surrounding Pyrenees make it one the most beautiful abbeys to visit in the south of France.

Again the cloister with its sculpted marble stone is outstanding.


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collioure, pyrenees orientales, languedoc roussillon, france
Cloister at Elne


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Villefranche-de-Conflent and
Fort Liberia

















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"Visit Roussillon - Languedoc - the Pyrenees Orientales for glorious country - breath taking valley of the Tet with Canigou, the High Corbieres hills with Queribus, the snow capped Pyrenees and Canigou with a sprinkling of historic castles and medieval abbeys to whet the palate

Don't forget the castles and abbeys that are north in the Aude at Lagrasse, Queribus, Peyrepertuse, and Salses-le-chateau!


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