Saint-Just Basilica is cozily nestled in the tiny village of Valcabrère, population 164, in the Haute-Garonne department of Southwest France. This small Romanesque church built in 11th -12th centuries is handsomely proportioned, with well-preserved portal sculptures. As if the setting wasn’t picturesque enough, what with the red chickens clucking about, antique barns and strategically placed Cyprus trees, the remains of a ancient Roman town surrounded the church.
A walk through Valcabrère and nearby Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was an exhilarating experience, in part because there were so few distractions that I actually focused on the landscape and architecture. The area is so rural that there were no bakeries, cheese shops or markets for me to drool over. (I confess that many of our cultural pilgrimages in France have rather rapidly digressed into stinky cheese pilgrimages. When I get around French regional food I’m like that golden retriever who fails obedience school by running after all the treats.)
Graveyard in front of Saint-Just.
This early Christian symbol, called a chrisme, is on the entry gate to the church.
The Basilica is a stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Epic win!
The pleasing portal: Christ inside a mandorla blesses us, while holding a book in his left hand. There are saints carved into the pillars by the door, and impressive capital carvings above the pillars. Note the traces of paint lingering on the capitals.
Clearly a Roman-era carving, recycled from one of the former Roman ruins.
Roman ruins close to the Basilica.
Scenic barns and outbuildings of Valcabrère.
Just keep following the seashell….
This sign needs a monocle.
How we got to Valcabrère: train from Toulouse to Montréjeau, bus from Montréjeau to Loures-Barousse, taxi from Loures-Barousse to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges, on foot from Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges to Valcabrère
Where we slept: Hostellerie des Vallées. Price: €40 for a double. Recommended: (doesn’t matter, since it’s the only place to stay in the area during winter.)