Prieuré de Marcevol, Pyrénées-Orientales

For a recent sojourn in the Pyrénées-Orientales, I asked Dennis Aubrey to recommend some Romanesque churches and monasteries to visit.  Marcevol was on his list.  Thanks Dennis.

On our way to spend a weekend in the higher Pyrenees, a friend and I visited the Prieuré de Marcevol which had unfortunately closed two minutes before we arrived.  But the sun sets late on these spring nights and I was able to take some photos of the exterior.  It’s a twelfth-century priory founded by the Order of Saint Sépulcre, destroyed in an earthquake in 1428, abandoned as ruins during the French Revolution and only properly restored in the last 40 years.  The priory now welcomes groups for cultural and sporting activities.

Facade, Marcevol Priory, France

Facade, Marcevol Priory, France

The facade is impressive, but the eye returns again and again to the rosy marble framing of the door and window.  The marble comes from the nearby quarries in Villefranche-de-Conflent, and has been used in many churches in the region.

Marcevol priory, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Rose marble, Marcevol priory, Pyrénées-Orientales, France

Uphill from the priory, there’s the small hamlet of Marcevol and a small eleventh-century church, Nostra Senyora de las Gradas (Santa Maria de las Grades).

Church in the hamlet of Marcevol, France

Romanesque church in the hamlet of Marcevol, France

We drove up the hill to see if we could go inside but unfortunately we were out of luck again;  it is not open to the public.  It’s right next door to, practically adjoining, a house which we thought was part of the church structure.  The owner, sitting on the steps by his back door, set us right.

Church, Marcevol, France

Eglise Sainte-Marie des Grades, 11th-century church, Marcevol, France

The chevet of the church is decorated by Lombard Bands, or a series of blind arcades, which are believed to also enhance stability.  Blocks of stone, much longer and wider than the others in the structure, were set deep into the thick walls above and below the arcades.  Lombard Bands were widely used on Romanesque churches in the Catalonia region of southern France and northern Spain, where Marcevol is located.

Since the little church and houses are all of stone, there’s nothing ugly in this hamlet.  For even when stone structures are neglected and tumble down, wildflowers grow quite naturally in the gaps. On the web site for the Marcevol priory, I read:  ‘Anyone who has never been to Marcevol does not know everything about the world’s beauty.’  It’s not just the priory, the hamlet and church that inspire, but also the setting, close to the majestic Mount Canigou (2785 m), the mountain loved by the Catalans.

Steps up to the church, Marcevol, France

Steps up to the 13th-century wall protecting the nave, Marcevol, France

*****

6 thoughts on “Prieuré de Marcevol, Pyrénées-Orientales

  1. We ‘Aussies’ don’t understand ‘old’ until we visit places like this in Europe. Imagine building places like that without any modern equipment (or OH&S regulations!!) – amazing. Thank you again for sharing, Trish.

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    • Ancient history is everywhere I look in Europe, buildings 500 years old, even 1000 years old, are common in the part of France where I am right now. An Australian building that’s 100 years old is precious and protected, and if it weren’t, some developer would knock it down when no one was looking and build a boxy apartment block. But to build these old stone houses and churches here, it took decades, even centuries, with numbers of alterations along the way. You’re right, it was probably dangerous lifting all these heavy blocks of stone.

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  2. We lived in the PO when they were fighting to build a golf course resort on the site of the little rustique 9 holes close by. The friends of the Priory galvanised tremendous support and defeated the developers – thank goodness. Lovely Pictures of a beautiful piece of history.

    Regards

    Dan

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    • Thanks for commenting. It’s good to know the photos evoke memories of being there, or a desire to go there. And it’s always good to hear that developers have been defeated.

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