Le Puy to Conques

On the Rue Charlemagne Le Puy to Conques Follow Me on Pinterest

On the Rue Charlemagne Le Puy to Conques

We were walking from Le Puy to Conques.

Winter was coming. Every morning was discernibly colder than the previous one. Breakfast at the Hotel de la Vallee was the most meager of meals yet. It didn’t take us long to walk to Senergues where we bought some apples and peanuts, and continued along the GR65. Over cold hills, fingers crossed in hope against rain. Goretex coat, beanie and even gloves on today.

A quick stop to view the scallop shells on the stained glass window in the church at Saint-Marcel.

The path began a long descent to Conques. It was uneven and seemed to go on for ever. So we were surprised to see the first rooftops of Conques almost directly below us. Conques is situated on the flanks of a steep, wooded gorge above the River Dordou, a tributary of the Lot. It’s one of the great villages of southwest France and was a popular medieval pilgrim destination. It still attracts its fair share of tourists and pilgrims.
We continued along the GR65 which became the Rue Charlemagne and walked through the medieval town marveling at the tidy medieval buildings and the outside of the Abbey Church. The cobbled road continued down to the River Dordou and an ancient pilgrims’ bridge. Guarding the entrance to the bridge was the Hotel Pont du Romain, our night’s accommodation.
In the 7th century a hermit known as Dadon chose this area as a retreat and founded a community of Benedictine monks. The name Conques derives from the Latin Concha (shell) describing the fingers of the gorge into which the town nestles. When the administrative pressures of monastic life became too great for Dadon, he relinquished his role and sought another retreat.
He found a site further up the valley and returned to his hermetic lifestyle. His new retreat was waterless. One day he experienced a vision in which he was asked whether he wanted wine for a day or water for life. Dadon chose water over wine and soon found a small spring which later proved to have the miraculous property of restoring eyesight.
At the beginning of the great age of pilgrimage, Conques was not included in the itinerary on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims passing through the region would stop at nearby Agen and pay their respects to the relics of St. Foy, a saint known for her ability to cure blindness and liberate captives. Not to be included on such an august and popular pilgrimage route as Santiago would prevent growth in the Cluniac community of Conques. So the ambitious abbot of Conques sent his monk Aronisdus to Agen to appropriate the well-guarded relics. Aronisdus joined the Agen clergy, but had to wait for ten years before his turn to guard the relics came due.
That same night he gathered the relics up in a bag and climbed over the monastery wall and hurried back to Conques. The monks at Conques refused to return them. Instead they paid the town of Agen compensation and Conques became a pilgrim destination in its own right.  And all these years later, pilgrims like us have arrived to appreciate the history and culture of this place.
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