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St Papoul Abbey

Works by the Master of Cabestany, a Gothic church with a baroque choir and a Romanesque cloister.

Since its foundation in the 8th century, the abbey has been dedicated to Saint Papoul, disciple of Saint Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse.

In the 11th century, the abbey followed the rulings of Saint Benedict and enjoyed a prosperous period thanks to the monk Bérenger. A model of virtue, miracles were performed on his tomb, leading to pilgrimages. In the 12th century, after being developed, the abbey church apse was decorated by the Master of Cabestany, a famous Languedoc Romanesque sculpture studio.

In 1317, Pope John XXII created the bishopric of Saint Papoul, when the Toulouse bishopric was divided. The abbot became bishop and the monks become canons. From 1317 to 1790, thirty-four bishops succeeded one another in the episcopal see (seven finally became Cardinals).

The abbey went through troubled times when it was looted by the ‘routiers’ in 1361, the Burgundians in 1412, and the Calvinists in 1595. During the 17th and 18th centuries, major restoration work was undertaken.

The revolutionary era put an end to the bishopric of Saint Papoul, the cathedral church became a parish church and its cloister was ransacked and the marble pieces sold.

It was not until its classification as an Historic Monument in 1840 that the local council started restorations.

Visiting the abbey

The former monks’ refectory now houses a permanent exhibition of the Master of Cabestany’s works. Through this set of casts, we can observe his characteristic style as well as the large number of works that were produced. Hidden in the wall, we can find the trace of the Benedictine reading chair.

In the cloister galleries, there are capitals with various motifs, plants or fantastic bestiary, and historical scenes. The brick and stone columns bestow a charm. A baptismal font is housed in a chapel, all carved from Caunes-Minervois marble.

The church, in the southern Gothic style, has been altered several times. Its Romanesque choir, redecorated in the 18th century in the Baroque style, was restored in 2003 and has a large canopy decorated with gold leaf.

The medieval village

Half-timbered houses, a guard tower... stones that demonstrate the history.

This small village at the foot of the Montagne Noire owed its origin to the nearby Benedictine abbey, during the 13th century.  Placed under the control of the abbot, a veritable small town developed, protected by walls and fortified gates. Inside, there is a maze of alleys dotted with corbelled and half-timbered houses.

In the cloister galleries, there are capitals with various motifs, plants or fantastic bestiary, and historical scenes. The brick and stone columns bestow a charm. A baptismal font is housed in a chapel, all carved from Caunes-Minervois marble.

The church, in the southern Gothic style, has been altered several times. Its Romanesque choir, redecorated in the 18th century in the Baroque style, was restored in 2003 and has a large canopy decorated with gold leaf.

The medieval village Half-timbered houses, a guard tower… stones that demonstrate the history.

This small village at the foot of the Montagne Noire owed its origin to the nearby Benedictine abbey, during the 13th century.  Placed under the control of the abbot, a veritable small town developed, protected by walls and fortified gates. Inside, there is a maze of alleys dotted with corbelled and half-timbered houses.

Becoming an episcopal city in 1317, the town was again solidly fortified with two large towers closing off access to the interior of the village. The ‘guard tower’, still visible today, housed the episcopal prison. This squat building, with a quadrangular plan, is pierced with a few bays and arrow slits. On the village side, you can see a 16th-century statuette of the Virgin and Child, the original of which is kept in the monks’ refectory. The whole door, in Gothic style, has been listed on the inventory of Historic Monuments since 1926. We can still see remarkable houses inside the village, such as the ‘Maison Lacapelle’ (former village hospital), dated 1610, in rue Bombée, and the ‘Maison de la Providence’ which still has a very pretty 18th century lintel. In the rue du Général d´Hautpoul, you can see a piece sculpted by the Master of Cabestany on the façade of a house. Finally, the Town Hall is located in a hall that used to be the covered market place.
From the 16th century, the village prospered due to the extraction of clay and the production of everyday pottery. In the 19th century, this activity developed with the creation of a large earthenware factory renowned for its octagonal plates. At the same time and until the twentieth century, bricks and tiles were also produced. Today, the village has nearly 800 inhabitants and its clay quarry is still operational.

Place Monseigneur de Langle
11400
Saint Papoul
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