No snow yesterday: mountain views and a Benedictine abbey

Distant Pyrénées. Not my photo, not the view we saw. But you get the idea
Distant Pyrénées. Not my photo, not the view we saw. But you get the idea

I gather that the last thing anyone in England needs right now is someone chirruping about how beautiful the snow is.  Well, here in the foothills of the Pyrénées, we’ve been almost alone in France in being a snow-free zone.  But please note: ‘the foothills’. The mountain tops have been covered for some weeks, and over the last week, the snow levels have crept down..and down…and ever nearer. And it’s quite simply beautiful.

Distant Pyrénées

Yesterday we went walking in the Lauragais.  That’s a gentle, verdant region north of here on the edge of la Montagne Noir.  Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the walk we had here, through sandy woodland paths, crunchy with fallen leaves, were the views across to the Pyrénées: mile after mile of distant peaks blanketed in blue-white snow beneath a bluer sky.  If only my camera began to do justice to this impressive sight.

A misericord to support a monkish bottom
Abbaye de Saint Papoul
Abbaye de Saint Papoul

Healthily exercised, we came down to the village of Saint Papoul, and looked round the Benedictine Abbey of the same name.  I found myself lingering in the 14th century cloisters and in the abbey itself, inspecting the misericords, the small decorated wooden shelves hidden under the seats to provide a bit of support for the poor monks as they stood for long hours during their religious devotions.

The Flight into Egypt

Perhaps the most enjoyable bit of our visit was a chance to look at the special exhibition devoted to le Maître de Cabestany, a Romanesque sculptor who seems to have left his mark on many of the pilgrimage churches on the route from Rome to Compostella.

The infant Jesus takes a bath

His figures, despite their realism, their chunky hands and elongated eyes, seem to have a slightly supernatural feel to them and they were fun to explore and enjoy.

It was cold though.  Snow threatened, but didn’t fall in the end.  We decided against a mooch round the village: probably something to do in the future, and scurried back home to toast our toes and fingers

The weathered pillars of the cloisters, and their equally weathered capitals

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