Cathédrale Ste-Marie is a pilgrim magnet. Once you catch sight of this Romanesque-Gothic beauty at the foot of the Pyrenees in the village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges you are inevitably pulled in by it’s compelling attraction.
Don’t you want to come closer?
Unlike the scenery, the weather during our visit to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was less than idyllic. Not to put to fine a point on it—it sucked. And naturally the church was unheated and there were no open businesses in the area where we could take shelter while the church was closed for mid-day break. Attempting to picnic outdoors on a windy hilltop in the midst of a wintery mix of sleet and rain was:
3. What we should have expected when traveling in January.
The Romanesque West entrance and tympanum. An office joining the church (though the door to the right of the entry) can rent you an excellent audio tour.
Gettin’ all Gothic on the sides.
Cathédrale Ste-Marie is a stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail and oh man was I excited about it!
This part of the cathedral (between the entry and the choir) is called the pronoas. Pilgrims and other non-fancy types worshiped here since they weren’t allowed in the choir.
And then bang, right in the middle of the stone church is a wooden Renaissance mini-church with 67 carved choir stalls.
There’s a lot of weirdness going on in the choir partitions. If anyone know what’s happening in this carving please let me know.
“Can’t nobody can rock a bishop’s hat and a contrapposto stance like me, girlfran.”
Freaky temptation of Adam and Eve. The serpent has….boobs??
Cathédrale Ste-Marie’s lovingly restored 16th century organ. I’m dying to hear it played during one of the town’s yearly music festivals.
The area on the right is the Mausoleum of St. Bernard. Although the church is chuck full of great art, this mausoleum is decorated by a laughably awful painter.
Take a peak at the apse with it’s five chapels.
The marble tomb of Hugues de Châtillon.
Polychrome statue of Saint Roch, caught in the act of showing an angel the plague boil on his leg.
500 year old stuffed crocodile hanging there all dusty and hollow-eyed: you know, just a normal church decoration.
The Romanesque cloister that I’m sure normally has a jaw-dropping view of the Pyrenees, though due to the weather our view was of waves of sleet and heavy mist. Further towards the back is The Pillar of the Four Evangelists, c. 1200. On each side of the pillar is a sculpture of an evangelist holding his symbol.
Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges has no hotels, no b&bs—at least nothing open in winter, so we found a place in nearby Loures-Barousse. Naturally, being a lady with a lentil-sized bladder, I was worried about where I would be able to pee during my day in Saint-Bertrand. People who share my concern (and I know you’re out there): just outside the church cloister is a lifesaving john with an endearingly funny sign.
The lobby of our hotel—a 1970’s French time-capsule, complete with velvet flocked wallpaper.
The hotel was run by friendly and helpful people. Regrettably, these charming inn-keepers seem not to have updated their linens since the 1970’s flocked wallpaper was installed. For your viewing pleasure, I put in a high res photo of our bed spread. I urge you to click on it to enjoy the positively historic stains on the bedspread (the stains are obscured by the camera flash, but you can at least get an idea of their true glory.)
Where we slept: Hostellerie des Vallées. Price: €40 for a double. Recommended: (doesn’t matter, since it’s the only place in the area you can stay, at least in the winter.)