Cathedral of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges
Central Pyrénées of FRANCE
Thanks to my friend Christopher Johnson for sending me his photos and historical notes provided by the Cathedral. This is on ourlist of Cloisters to see.
The cathedral is more than 800 yers old and through the many events of history, has suffered only minor damage.
Circled by ancient houses and steep remparts, the cathedral rises to 1700 feet, dominating fromthe top of its acropolis over the land that is drained by the Garonne River. It stands to command over the routes to Luchon, Spain, Toulouse and Tarbes.
Within the one roof stands three churches of different periods and styles. A Roamnesque Church of the 12th Century, founded by Saint Bertrand. A Gothic Church of the 14th Century designed, commissioned and finance by Clement V. And a Renaissance Church of the 16th Century, a wooden church inside a church of stone.
The cloister was built on the ramparts of the south side of the Cathdreal.
Saint-Bertrand planned it to give his community of monks a permanet place to pray, to meet each other and rest. It did not take long for it to become the caposanto of the religious community.
The original constructions dates back to the 12th Century, but it underwant alteration several times. Its shape is uneven, as is the groun it is built upon. It has four galleries around an open courtyard.
Three of the galleries are Romanesque, covered by an openwork frame. They are formed by Romanesque arches resting on a double row of columns, crowned by capitals decorated with foliage, interlacing, animal heads, rustic scenes and illustration of takes. The most expressive piece of sculpture is the pillar of the four evangelists where each evangleslist is shown with his symbol.
The southern gallery has the unique feature of opening out onto the surrounding countryside, where as Romanesque cloisters are generally closed on four sides. This unusual use of the cloister as a view point gives it particular cham and adds to the site unique character.
The northern gallery, lying against the Cathedral, was completely reconstructed during the 15th and 16th centuries and was given surbased vaults in the style of flamboyant Gothic, but build in a severe tone. This gallery is called the Gallery of Tombs because of the tombs ahd inscriptions. Only seven of the tombs remain, they mark the burial of monks, benefactors and regular visitors to the monastery.