September 4, 2013

Two Abbey Churches

A small part of a large flock of geese, which I heard before seeing them. 
They were at a farm between Les Eyzies and St. Amand de Coly.

This is the land of foie gras and rich food. Also of painted caves and churches. Medieval history. Castles. The border between the French and the English was here during the 100 years war, and castles face each other across the rivers. Little roads. Good, rolling scenery. Lots, but lots, of visitors. I visited these two churches over two days, one during a day ride from Les Eyzies, the other on my way to Sarlat.

Two abbatial churches. The first in Cadouin, south of Les Eyzies, the other north in St. Amand de Coly. The first, Cadouin, was Cistercian, the second Augustinian. Both date from the 11th and 12th centuries.

Aliénor of Aquitaine is known to have visited both abbey, and I determined to visit them after learning that tidbit. She was, famously, the wife first of the King of France, then of the King of England, and mother of Richard the Lionhearted. To add to that, she was educated, brilliant, politically astute, powerful, headstrong and beautiful, in an age that few women could claim all those things. The notion of following  something of her path in France was the instigation of this trip. That changed, because I won't get to the Loire this trip, but still... if she was there, I want a look.

Pause, pause....a break from writing.

OK, I admit it.  I am now in my room in Sarlat, having gotten behind in my writing and not yet posted either about yesterday's ride to Cadouin or today'sride here, via St. Amand de Coly. Plus, while reporting on those two rides, I was totally distracted by activity outside. Hence the pause. Here in Sarlat, an extremely well preserved medieval city, I am staying in a b+b (actually more like a small hotel) on the main square. Writing this, I could hear crowds laughing, clapping outside, so ... out I went and joined them, watching jugglers, gymnasts, magicians, street theatre ... very fun. It got very late. I got tired.

And so now, I will leave you for this evening with only photos. First, Cadouin. To me the cloister was far more interesting than the church. The abbey dormitory is now used as a youth hostel.

Hanging keystone showing a courtesan on Aristotle's back

The four walls of the cloisters, built in different eras, illustrate changing church architecture.
These are gothic and romanesque

The cloisters at Cadouin

Then St. Amand de Coly, where I stopped on my route to Sarlat today. About the ride I'll tell you only that it was very hot. St. Amand de Coly was a great stop, out of my way, and I was very glad to visit there.

The entrance to the church, from across the square

The color of this church was impossible to capture, veering either to too pink or too grey.

Easy to imagine a large abbey here, supporting and administering the town around it. 

If jongleurs, jesters, troubadors, etc, who were famously present in Aliénor's courts were not in the abbeys, they certainly were not far away. Whatever is happening out there right now in Sarlat is to the sound of  Leonard Bernstein's Carmina Burana.

View Les Eyzies to Sarlat in a larger map



  1. So beautiful, Susan. What wonderful adventures. Thank you for sharing them with us..though it makes life here seem so mundane. (Abby)

    1. Hi Abby,

      I meant to put it in the text, but then spent the evening on the street. The strange sculpture is a hanging keystone, depicting a courtesan riding on Aristotle's back.!

      Glad to know you're there!

  2. Excellent post and images. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. You get lovely shots from inside the buildings.

    1. Why thank you. I struggle with them, to me it seem almost impossible to capture the sense of the place.


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