Moissac, France

Moissac is a town in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage handed down by the ancient Saint-Pierre Abbey. According to legend, the abbey was founded by Clovis (the Frankish king), but from historical information it was founded by Saint Didier, bishop of Cahors in the middle of the 7th century. The establishment of the monastery was difficult because of raids by the Moors and the Norsemen.

The 11th and 12th centuries witnessed a first golden age, the result of Moissac being affiliated to the Burgundy abbey of Clunyand its accepting the famous Reformation, under the guidance of Durand de Bredons who was both the Abbot of Moissac and the bishop of Toulouse. This outstanding era witnessed the major abbots Dom Hunaud de Gavarret, and Dom Ansquitil; who had the doorway and tympanum built. In the 13th century, Raymond de Montpezat and then Bertrand de Montaigut, abbots and builders, ruled the abbey. Aymeric de Peyrac, writing his Chronicle in the 15th century in the castle of Saint Nicolas de la Grave reveals us those events.

The 15th century saw a new golden age with abbots Pierre and Antoine de Caraman, whose building programme included in particular the Gothic part of the abbey church. The 1626 secularization of the abbey caused the Benedictine monks to leave the cloister which had been a centre of Benedictine life for nearly 1000 years. They were replaced by Augustinian canons, under commendatory abbots including well-known cardinals such as Mazarin and de Brienne. In 1793, the French Revolution put an end to monastic life in Moissac. In the middle of the 19th century, the laying of a railway track threatened the cloister but it was saved (though the refectory was demolished to facilitate the railway cutting) and listed as a historic monument.

Even though the outlying buildings have suffered a lot and the appearance of the abbey has changed, this inheritance is nowadays the object of intense care as the south-west portico tympanum and trumeau statue of the Prophet Jeremiah, renowned amongst the greatest works of the European Romanesque, and the oldest and one of the most beautiful cloisters in France, can still be admired. The Saint-Pierre abbey in Moissac has a 12th century tympanum, portico statues (including the famous trumeau figure of the Prophet Jeremiah) and cloister (which has a later 15th century roof structure). There is also a Centre of Romanesque Art with important documents on medieval sculpture, illumination and wall-paintings. The Saint-Pierre abbey church and cloister are listed among the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.There are important waterways in Moissac: the Tarn River flows through the centre of town, as does the Canal de Garonne (formerly Canal latéral à la Garonne), the extension of the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Bordeaux. Together, these two canals are sometimes known as the Canal des deux mers (lit. canal of the two seas) connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea.

The Saint-Pierre abbey in Moissac has a 12th century tympanum, portico statues (including the famous trumeau figure of the Prophet Jeremiah) and cloister (which has a later 15th century roof structure). There is also a Centre of Romanesque Art with important documents on medieval sculpture, illumination and wall-paintings. The Saint-Pierre abbey church and cloister are listed among the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.There are important waterways in Moissac: the Tarn River flows through the centre of town, as does the Canal de Garonne (formerly Canal latéral à la Garonne), the extension of the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to Bordeaux. Together, these two canals are sometimes known as the Canal des deux mers (lit. canal of the two seas) connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea.

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