|The houses of the village encroaching on the abbey|
|My spirit guide|
|The current setting of the sarcophagus,|
which was probably once the main altar, in the choir
|A jongleur on a tight-rope is distracted by the goings-on|
|The goaded bull and animals representing the bestial nature of the saint's oppressors|
The identity of the Master of Cabestany is a mystery but his - or could it be their? or even her? work is famous throughout Catalonia, known for a certain style. I find it strange that the story progresses from right to left and, having written about left-handers, I wonder whether this was an accidental left-handed reversal of European writing convention? Or deliberate left-handed choice? Or could the Master have been from another culture, where writing flowed from right to left? It seems more than odd for an artist of this quality not to be aware of conventions. Do let me know your theories!
|The story of Saint Sernin, reading from right to left (missing the two side panels), |
from his evangelical preaching to his gory end
The Benedictines emerged from their troubles and endowments from the local nobles continued. Naturally the Abbot's apartment benefited from such generosity and I was feeling cynical as I walked into a room that took my breath away. The textures and patterns on the ceiling reminded me of those in the Palace of Joy in Zaragossa but the addition of satirical portraits make it look like an illuminated manuscript, with which a scribe has had fun in the margins.
|Abbot's chamber ceiling, with portraits|
|Detail of ceiling portraits|
|Heraldic shields on the walls below the decorated ceiling|
|My favourite motif - a heraldic beast with banner in its teeth|
|Patterned rows carved in wood|
The walls bear the shields and names of all the Abbots and you can imagine how excited I felt at seeing the dates 1146 and 1154. I get the shivers every time I come across details of the period I write about.
|The Abbots of 1146 and 1154|
Perhaps the Abbey's biggest contribution to the world came in the 16th century. In 1531 the monks created what is claimed here to be the first sparkling wine in the world, the 'blanquette' for which Limoux is now known and I stood in the very 'cave' or cellar where a monk was surprised by bubbles forming in the corked bottles of white wine, as if they were undergoing a second fermentation...
|The birth-place of sparkling wine: the wine cave in St-Hilaire|
|The famous 'blanquette'|
Photo: Agne27 at the English language Wikipedia
A long discussion with the Abbey curator confirmed my guess - this became the 'Ecole Publique des Filles' in the 19th century so the girls and small boys from the village came here for their lessons. The curator also clarified much else about St-Hilaire and played troubadour CDs for me. Now all I need to know is whether Estela and Dragonetz passed this way, and, if so, why.