The Pyrenees is a range of mountains that forms a natural border between France and Spain. They extend for about 300 miles from the Cantabrian/Atlantic coast (West) to the Mediterranean coast (East).
On this post I’m “hiking” just from the Central Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast, hopping from Spain to France, from France to Spain, from Spain to France … Thanks God, there are no political borders within the old Europe any longer.
(Pic above: “Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici” National Park, Pyrenees, Spain)
“Ancient art has a specific inner content. At one time, art possessed the same purpose that books do in our day, namely: to preserve and transmit knowledge. In olden days, people did not write books, they incorporated their knowledge into works of art. We would find a great many ideas in the works of ancient art passed down to us, if only we knew how to read them.” (George Gurdjieff)
Some of the churches, abbeys and monasteries you are about to see in this post are included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Our walk begins at the Cloister of St Peter’s abbey, in Moissac (France):
“Moissac is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage preserved in the medieval Saint-Pierre Abbey” (UNESCO).
This abbey is included in the World Heritage Site “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France”
This is Santiago (St. James) in Moissac:
Now let’s climb a little …
We are visiting the Romanesque churches of two awesome valleys on top of the Pyrenees range: Vall de Arán and Vall de Boí (Spain)
“The churches of the Vall de Boí are an especially pure and consistent example of Romanesque art in a virtually untouched rural setting” (UNESCO).
All the Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí are included in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Architecture is not the only art in which our ancestors excelled …
A little SUV comes very handy in order to reach some hermitages lost among these high mountains
Beware of the bell …
Let’s go on to the East …
“The Grail-Knight Gurnemanz and his esquires are praying in a forest near Montsalvat, the hidden Temple of the Grail, somewhere in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain …” With this phrase (more or less) begins the medieval legend of Parsifal and the Holy Grail. This old story has been a source of inspiration for great geniuses, from Richard Wagner in his opera “Parsifal”, to the great Covetotop in this very post …
On this trip I saw so much Medieval Art, that my head ended up turned into a Romanesque capital (pic above: Covetotop starting his hike to the Saint Martin du Canigou abbey, in the Canigou mountain, France)
We go on always towards the East, direction to the Mediterranean Sea …
The master of light (Via Lucis) Mr. Dennis Aubrey says about the Cloisters Museum collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: “Perched on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, the Cloisters is a superb home for the transplanted walkways of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa … Saint Martin-de-Canigou, and from other sites in southern France. Visitors to the City can enjoy these marvels of the Middle Ages for themselves. But it is a different thing to go to France and visit the original sites of these cloisters. We see fragments instead of ensembles, fragments of the buildings that once were the glory of medieval France”
I totally agree with Mr. Aubrey’s opinion. Here below there is a sad view of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa today: what is left of its cloister in its original site.
No arches in the background. Almost no cloister is left. Nevertheless, focus your attention on the face of that lonely little monster in the capital above … Do you see it? There is a smile on his face! Do you know why? I’ll tell you why: natural beauty, clean air, silence, peace, no tourists around (apart from me) and … the very best part of the monastery is still just in front of him!:
Let’s go on. This is the beautiful cloister of Elne (France):
The monastery of Santa María de Ripoll (Spain) is very beautiful too:
Its portal is Romanesque Art at its best:
Camprodón and its surroundings deserve a special post. I’ll write it any other day.
By now let’s go on. This is the secluded Monastery of Sant Quirze de Colera (Spain):
Our hike is about to finish. The last monastery we visit is the awesome monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, overlooking the Cap de Creus (Cape of Crosses) and the Pyrenees.
Sant Pere de Rodes is an 11th-century monastery whose first structures date from about 750 AD. Here worked the mysterious “Master of Cabestany“. The relief you can see in the pic below was made by the Master of Cabestany for the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery:
Mmm … I think that Sant Pere de Rodes deserves two or three posts more …
My Romanesque “hike” ends at the very end of the Pyrenees: the virgin coves of Cap de Creus (Costa Brava, Spain) and the mythical Mediterranean Sea.
I’ll wait here until I recover my human face …