Conques, France

Conques is a town in the Aveyron department in southern France.Also a well-known stopover on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, Conques is an exceptional jewel of Roman culture and heritage . The village is located at the confluence of the Dourdou and Ouche rivers. It is built on a hillside and has classic narrow Medieval streets. As a result, large vehicles (such as buses) cannot enter the historic town centre but must park outside. Consequently, most day visitors enter on foot and, as at least one overnight visitor has observed, the majority of the tourists depart in the late afternoon, leaving the town much less crowded. The town was largely passed by in the nineteenth century, and was saved from oblivion by the efforts of a small number of dedicated people. As a result, the historic core of the town has very little construction dating from between 1800 and 1950, leaving the medieval structures remarkably intact.

The roads have been paved, and modern-day utility lines are buried. The Sainte-Foy abbey-church in Conques was a popular stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela, in what is now Spain. Its construction was begun on the foundations of a smaller earlier basilica, directed by the abbot Odolric (1031–1065) and completed around the year 1120. It was built in Romanesque style, using a warm-colored local limestone infilled with a local gray schist. The daringly large dome that originally covered the crossing later collapsed and was replaced in the 15th century. The main draw for medieval pilgrims at Conques were the remains of Sainte Foy, a martyred young woman from the fourth century. Her name has been assimilated into the general conception of ‘Holy Faith.’ In the late 9th century, a monk from Conques allegedly stole these relics from a nearby monastery in order to draw travelers (and wealth) to Conques. The church that was eventually built had a double purpose: to accommodate the flock of pilgrims and at the same time to allow a community of monks to gather for the divine office seven times a day. Thus, Sainte-Foy has been designed like a pilgrimage shrine but also as an abbey-church.

To serve the inhabitants of the town, a separate parish church was erected, dedicated to Saint Thomas of Canterbury. This smaller church is no longer standing. In the 19th century, the author and antiquary Prosper Mérimée, appointed the first Inspector of Historical Monuments, inspired thorough restorations. The Sainte-Foy abbey-church was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1998, as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. Its Romanesque architecture, albeit somewhat updated in places, is displayed in periodic self-guided tour opportunities, especially of the upper level, some of which occur at night with live music and appropriately-adjusted light levels. A particularly interesting aspect of the church is the set of carvings of the “curieux” (the curious ones) who are peeking over the edges of the tympanum arch.


Exposed in the former refectory of the monks, the section of silverware religious is the most comprehensive collection of French goldsmith, spreading the lX th to XVl th century , especially with reliquaries due to local artists and dated Xl th century .

The centerpiece of the Treasury is the reliquary statue of Sainte Foy , which is responsible for the prosperity of the abbey which the relic was stolen from Agen . Dating from the ix th century , it is made of gold and silver plates on a wooden core. Over the ages, it has received many jewels.

In order to visit (and chronological parts), we can admire:

  • the hexagonal shrine , assembling various parts vii th  century to the xii th  century  ;
  • the pentagonal reliquary , assembly realized xvi th  century pieces of silverware dating from the vii th to the xiii th  century  ;
  • the A Charlemagne , the abbot Begon III (1087 – 1107) was done;
  • the reliquary of Pepin , small shrine that includes elements of ix th to xi th  century with some additions to xii th , xiii th and xvi th  centuries;
  • the plate of the Crucifixion , discovered in 1954, the shrine of Pepin, date of the end of the viii th  century  ;
  • the lantern Begon , like ancient tomb, dated xi e – xii th  century  ;
  • Virgin and Child enthroned at the end of xiii th  century  ;
  • the reliquary of Pope Pascal , with an inscription that says Abbot Begon III as a sponsor and the Pope Paschal II as a donor relics;
  • triptych reliquary of the second half of the xiii th  century ,
  • the arm reliquary of St. George , a monk from Conques became Bishop of Lodève in 877

The A Charlemagne ‘s silver gilt wood core, according to tradition, the emperor endowed abbey each a letter of the alphabet, he would have given the letter A in Conques, a sign of excellence. So they are visible on all sides, the reliquary of Pepin, Charlemagne and the A lantern Begon are presented on rotating pedestals, controlled by the visitor.

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