St Hilaire's history, Guided tour, Short anecdotes,

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GUIDED TOUR...

 

The Cloister:

 

Built in the 14th century, it is an irregular trapezoid, with four galleries and 54 arches.

 

The capitals of the columns, carved in single blocks of stone, are ornate with animals, foliage and men's heads.

 

At the center of the cloister, one can see a basin and a well dating from the 16th century.

 

* North Gallery :

 

 

One can see the first door of the church: the spandrel painted in the 15th century represents two angels.

 

 

* East Gallery:

It opens on the chapter house , the library and the dormitory. At the moment, one can only visit the abbot's lounge. This room owns an extraordinary ceiling painted in the 16th century with some animals, flowers and different stories (men at work, hunting, humorous…).

The walls are also painted: Canon Boudet commissioned in 1860 the coats of arms of the 55 monastery's abbots.

In the gallery, there is a chessboard carved between the columns.

On the wall, one can observe a stone reinserted: the decor is an interlacing motif of the 8th century; it comes from the early Carolingian church.

an interlacing motif of the 8th century
 
Chessboard

 

* South Gallery :

 

It contains two refectories, one for monks, one for pilgrims and guests. Today, these rooms are ruined but in the monks' refectory, there is a reading chair, made of stone in the 14th century. There is only one item of this kind in France. The monk reads during meals for the two refectories: the chair is reached thanks to a stair in the wall. He could not be seen: pilgrims and guests could just hear him.
The reading chair
 

* West Gallery :

 

 

In this gallery, there were the cellars. Thanks to these stairs, one can discover the silos on the rock (sandstone and "poudingue"*"*) : throught the silos, the farmers threw the fruits, the grapes...and they could not see the monks.

One shall note that the first sparkling wine, the Blanquette de Limoux, has been created by the monks, in this cellar, in 1531.

 

The Abbey Church

 

The abbey church was built at the end of the 12th century,with a simple plan: a unique nave with a semicircular apse and two lateral chapels.

 

The nave features arch vaulting. The transverse ribs were originally intended to bear a wooden frame, however Abbot William 1st, made the nave gothic style in 1257.

The keystones are decorated with a lamb, a hand with the first three fingers outstretched and a dove (now missing). The capitals are decorated with leaves and figures.

The church was never completed: a pebble wall formed its western facade.

Inside, one can see interesting pieces of furniture: altars, main altar, stoop made of red marble from Caunes Minervois (Aude); paintings representing « the Annunciation » or« Saint Hilaire's miracle » ; one can notice the wooden chair of the18th century, decorated with Saint Hilaire, Saint Benoit and the four Evangelists.

 

* Saint Sernin'sarcophagus :

 

This is the masterpiece of the abbey church: a work of art in white marble of the Pyrenees.

It represents the arrest, the martyrdom and the burial of Saint Sernin (or Saturnin), first bishop of Toulouse in 250.

On the main view,

on the left,
 
on the right,
 
Saint Sernin was pulled by a bull
 
Saint Sernin was arrested by Roman soldiers

On the lateral views:

 

 

* Poudingue : special stone made of pebbles and sediments

**Saintes Puelles : Holy Women, disciples of Saint Sernin, they take care of St Sernin's corpse.

 

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