Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Search of Sainte Foy

Lucie and I took a road trip today. I've felt pulled to Conques ever since I arrived last fall, so today we went. It's that St. Foy...I think she wants me there for some reason! The day started a bit cool and cloudy, but it was pleasantly warm and the sky was mostly blue by the time we drove the 70 kms deep into the Aveyron. The trees haven't begun to leaf out yet, so it was a good time to get a look at how the land lies as I drove up the narrow valley to Conques along the Dourdou River. How quickly the soil turns red once you turn up river. How quickly the roofs turn from Lotois tiles to Aveyron slate. There were some others visiting Conques, but most of the village was still closed for the winter and was very quiet. My first stop was the church where I visited a bit with St. Foy and lit a candle in her chapel. I slid into one of the pews and sat quietly...waiting for St. Foy to declare herself. The church was so still. As usual, there were only one or two visitors there, speaking in whispers, reluctant to disturb sleeping saints or praying people. The creamy white walls were cold; the quiet was a physical presence. A few candles flickered. It was a 'deep breath' kind of moment...relax and be present to the centuries of energy that fill this magnificent space. As I sat, the sole person in the pews, I heard a clear, lilting soprano voice. At first I thought it was a recording coming from a hidden speaker somewhere. But then I realized, it came from this woman slowly walking the ambulatory and singing....
While I don't know for sure what she was doing, my guess is that she will be performing here at some future date and was checking out the acoustics. Which are absolutely superb...her voice carried all the way to the top of the vaulted ceilings three stories high and rang clearly throughout the entire abbey church. I think the folks following her were part of her entourage. St. Foy sent me a unexpected pleasure this day and I'm so grateful.


  1. We went to Conques a few years ago but it was in summer so much busier than this time of year. In summer you have to pay to park and they have a warden directing cars. To start with I didn't like the windows on the abbey church but they grew on me.

  2. The other times I've been have been in Sept. You have to pay to park then as well. I love the Solanges windows, but I know they are kind of controversial. I think they are perfect with the simple, elegant lines of the church.