Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The sarcophagus of Saint Sernin (Saint Hilaire Abbey, Southern France)

If you, my dear visitor, have been so brave or so confused as to click somewhere on such a long and unappealing title as “Following the steps of the Master of Cabestany: The sarcophagus of St. Sernin (Saint Hilaire Abbey, Southern France)”, then you deserve to read an outstanding post.

But I’m afraid that I’m not able to produce outstanding posts.

Hence, today’s post, dedicated again to the mysterious and errant Maître de Cabestany, will be short and schematic. Nevertheless, adventurous friend, I’ll do my best here in order to provide you with good information about a very little known artistic gem hidden in our beloved planet: The sarcophagus of Saint Sernin, in Saint Hilaire.

This is the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Hilaire-d’Aude (or Saint Hilaire Abbey):

Saint Hilaire Abbey

Its cloister, built in the XIV century, is an ideal place to meditate about the financial crisis as you wander in the utmost silence …

Cloister in Southern France

Within the church, you’ll find the impressive sarcophagus of Saint Sernin, a Romanesque masterpiece by the Master of Cabestany (XII century):

Sarcophagus front view

St. Sernin, who was the first bishop of Toulouse (Southwestern France), was martyred by being dragged to death by a bull in the streets of Toulouse, around year 257 after Christ.

Here below you can see the whole story: The right side of the sarcophagus depicts the arrest of St. Sernin as he preaches in Toulouse, holding the Holy Bible. The left side of the sarcophagus depicts the martyrdom of St. Sernin, who is tied to a furious bull and dragged through the streets:

St Sernin by Master of Cabestany

Now, pay attention to the detail: St. Sernin was such a cool Saint, that he found the strength to bless two ladies as he passes them …

Saint Saturnin detail

This work of art was carved from a single block of Pyrenean marble. You can spend more than an hour staring in awe and wonder in front of the Master of Cabestany’s sculptures, but be careful … You can end up losing your mind and talking to the marble figures …  and they can talk back to you. I guess that was exactly what happened to this tourist:

Tourists and art

If you undergo this paranormal experience and need to recover your mental health, I’d suggest you drink some good champagne. Saint Hilaire Abbey is the optimal place to do so. More than a century before champagne, the Benedictine monks of this monastery created France’s very first sparkling wine: Blanquette de Saint Hilaire (or Blanquette de Limoux). It tastes delicious.

Ask anybody in the Abbey and they shall offer you a cup of celestial Blanquette.

Practical info:

Saint Hilaire is situated 13 Km South of the famous, monumental and ultratouristic city of Carcassonne.

If you want to prepare properly your visit to the monastery, or if you just want to pay a virtual visit to the good monks of Saint Hilaire, click here.

More about Blanquette in “Domaine de Martinolles”.

I think I’m a little drunk. We’ll be following the steps of the Master of Cabestany any other day.



About Covetotop

A Mediterranean blogger
This entry was posted in Art and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Following the steps of the “Master of Cabestany”: The sarcophagus of Saint Sernin (Saint Hilaire Abbey, Southern France)

  1. Were you able to go to Rieux Minervois? Great work by the Master of Cabestany there in a superb heptagonal church. Thanks for this post.

    • Covetotop says:

      Rieux Minervois not yet, but I hope to get there soon. I am just “following the steps of the Master of Cabestany” and I plan to post about every single step. Thank you very much for your liking and commenting. I’m a fan of Via Lucis (and of Romanesque Art) and it is an honour to have one of his chief authors commenting on the Covetotop’s blog.

  2. It’s perfect timing that I read this, tomorrow I will be in Carcassonne! Guess I have somewhere better to visit now!

    • Covetotop says:

      Carcassonne is an awesome Medieval marvel, and there is a myriad of interesting places to visit around it. You won’t be disappointed!

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