In the beautiful Roussillon, very close to the French-Spanish border, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees Mountains, there is a little village named Cabestany. It’s almost a suburb of Perpignan, once the capital of Roussillon, and definitively it’s difficult to spot it on any touristic map of Southern France …
But the tiny village of Cabestany is very special for the author of this blog. Hence, taking into account that freedom rules the Internet, and taking into account that this is my blog, and taking into account that I post here whatever I want whenever I want, today I feel like beginning a series of posts devoted to a Medieval genius who worked many centuries ago in said little village: The Master of Cabestany.
So, if you don’t like Romanesque Art, you’d better fly away from here. If you do like it, follow the Master of Cabestany’s steps with me.
Now, let me introduce to you this great artist: The “Master of” or “Maître de” Cabestany (XII century) was a mysterious, anonymous, errant and sublime sculptor (most probably cathar) who worked in the very same geographical area which I cover in this blog: the Latin Arch (Do you see the parallelism?)
Obviously, he did his job far better than I do mine, but that is not the point at this moment.
He is known as the “Master of Cabestany” (his real name is incognito) because of a tympanum made by his hand, found in the St. Marie church of Cabestany. The tympanum is devoted to the Dormition of Marie and her Assumption. There are other sculptures around Western Mediterranean churches and monasteries, that have such characteristics in common, that they are considered to be by the one and only Master of Cabestany.
The Master’s sculptures are extremely original. Human figures seem to come from an exo-planet recently discovered. Hands are big. Fingers are long. Eyes are almond-shaped. Ears are weird. Face expressions are 50% love 50% hate …
The Master’s powers can place together many wild figures, all of them skillfully detailed, on a very little surface: No empty space is left.
So, my virtual friends, this is post number one of a series devoted to this great sculptor from the Middle Ages. But don’t worry. I don’t pretend to bore you with art theories or technical data in my blog. Actually, I am not able to bore you properly, as I am not a professor, scholar or something like that. I only pretend to give you just a glimpse of the Master’s talent and of the beautiful Mediterranean surroundings where he worked some 9 centuries ago.
Nevertheless, if you are interested in further information (outstanding information) about this old genius, I have some suggestions for you:
1.- If you speak or understand French or, at least, you understand b/w photography, a very good book is “Le Maître de Cabestany” (Éditions Zodiaque, various authors). You can get it in the Romanesque Sculpture Center of Cabestany (more about this later). This is the cover:
2.- If you speak or understand English, and don’t want to spend a penny, you can download this fabulous pdf about the Master.
That’s ok for today’s Art History class. Now let’s deal with the little villa of Cabestany.
What can you do in Cabestany?
Well, in first place, if you are interested in the Master and you love touching everything, you can go to the Romanesque Sculpture Center (Centre de Sculpture Romane) of the village. There you’ll find replicas of the most outstanding works of the Master, made from resin and reconstituted stone. You can touch them, “feel” them and learn a lot of facts about the man and his work.
You can visit the Centre´s webpage here: www.maitre-de-cabestany.com
It was inaugurated in 2005. I was there …
Of course, in Cabestany you have to visit the St. Marie church, and stare in awe in front of the Master’s tympanum.
If you end up in a state of ecstasy after viewing so much mastery, you can do two things in Cabestany, just to recover your spiritual peace:
a) You can listen some music/lyrics by another illustrious son of Cabestany, a Medieval “trobador” (singer), named Guillem de Cabestany. There is a gloomy legend about him: It says that his girlfriend ate his heart …
In the wonderful compact disc below you could listen the complete story of that ancient crime (that of the poor Guillem de Cabestany), and enjoy some songs by this author and his fellow trobadors from the XII & XIII centuries. This ancient music is masterly sung and directed by the great tenor Antoni Rossel, and edited by the audacious Columna Musica.
b) But if Medieval music is not enough for you, in Cabestany you can buy & drink some good wine from Roussillon …
We’ll be following the steps of the Master of Cabestany any other day, who knows where …
- Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The sarcophagus of Saint Sernin (Saint Hilaire Abbey, Southern France)
- Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (Alt Empordà, Catalonia, Spain)