The Abbey Church of St Foy is a magnificent Romanesque building with the only surviving medieval shrine on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.
A Benedictine Abbey was founded here in 819AD by a hermit called Dadon, as the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela passed close by. In 866AD a monk was dispatched to the monastery of Agen to steal relics of St Foy, a virgin martyred in 303AD under Diocletian and known for her ability to cure blindness and free captives. Once at Conques, these were placed in a golden statue. The monastery prospered and pilgrims left jewels to be added to the statue aswell as other gifts.
The TREASURY is reached off the cloisters and is the most amazing collection of silver and gold plate reliquaries from the 9th-16thC. They were kept in the church until 1975 when the treasury building was constructed to hold them.
The highlight is the 9thC statue of Ste Foy en Majesté, which contains her relics. It is the only surviving example of the statue-reliquary shrine which was common in the Middle Ages and is the oldest surviving statue in western Christianity. Made from wood, it is completely covered in gold, precious and semi precious stones.
A second reliquary of St Foy was found under the choir during the 19thC restorations. It is a small casket covered in silver studded leather with enamelled medallions dating from 1100-1130 and contains many bones belonging to St Foy wrapped in fine fabric and a belt.
There is a beautiful silver and gilt carving of St Foy dating from the end of the 15thC holding a palm leaf to signify martyrdom and a sword and grid iron.
There are other examples of small casket reliquaries studded with semi precious stones, portable altars and a late 15thC processional cross with a figure of St Foy.
Unfortunately no photography is allowed. A free, illustrated information leaflet in English is included in the price. The entry charge also includes entry to Joseph Fau Museum in the home of a former Mayor.
This is an interesting building and houses a collection of capitals from the cloister, sculptures, furniture, tapestries and other artefacts from the Abbey. The 17thC tapestries illustrate the life of Mary Magdalene and were originally in the Chapter House. There is one of her towards the end of her life entering the state of rapture. A semi naked Mary is being carried by angels. One wonders what the monks made of it. . .
Conques is a World Heritage site and deservedly popular with tourists. It is well woth visiting and the Treasury is literally a treasure trove of beautiful objects. It was just a shame we were not allowed to take picitures.