Saint Pierre Abbey - Moissac
UNESCO Heritage List
Visitor's Rating: (0 out of 4/Number of Votes:0)
The Saint Pierre Abbey of the town of Moissac is a Romanesque art masterpiece and part, since 1998, of UNESCO's World Heritage List.
In his famous novel "The name of the rose" Umberto Eco describes in details the tympanum of the church's south side portal. (In the novel the monastery is placed in Italy. The church was also used for taping some scenes in the homonym movie!).
While the legend says that the monastery was founded by the king of Francs Clovis, it was most probably founded during the reign of Louis I (778-840) also known as Louis le Pieux, the son of Charlemagne.
At its inception the monastery followed the rules of monastic life of Saint Benedict and later starting with the middle of the 11th century (1047) it became affiliated to the Clunisian order - this big branch of the Benedictine order founded in the 10th century at the Cluny monastery.
The 11th and the 12th centuries were times of thriving times of the abbey. The old Carolingian church is replaced with the first Romanesque church consecrated in 1063 by Durand de Bredons, its first Clunisian Abbot who was also the Bishop of Toulouse. In 1100, during the administration of the Abbot Ansquitil, the cloister is finished - to be redone in the 13th century in a gothic style but with the preservation of the old sculpted column tops - and 1135 sees the completion of the famous portal and its tympanum.
In the 15th century during the times of the abbots Pierre de Caraman and Antoine de Caraman a new construction works are undertaken: the church walls are reinforced and elevated, using red bricks, to support the new "gothic languedocien" style ceiling and the choir and sanctuary are completely redone. The altarpiece is redone in Renaissance style in the 16th century.
The monastery was dissolved during French revolution in 1790 and the sold as National property to the Moissac town hall clerk who saves it from destruction.
In 1801 the church is reinstituted as a worship place and its building is restored in 1847 at the initiative of architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
In 1856 the ancient refectory is destroyed by the construction of the railroad that links Bordeaux to Sète.
The cloister of Moissac abbey is considered by many "the most beautiful cloister" in the world.
Its 4 galleries each around 40 meters long are bordered by 116 columns, 76 column tops each differently sculpted and 14 reliefs installed on the main pillars.
From the 76 sculpted capitals 46 describe scenes of the Bible or stories from the life of the saints. The other capitals are decorated with natural motifs.
In the center of the West gallery a marble panel on the middle pillar attests that the cloister was finished in 1100.
The church's south side portal and its tympanum, masterpieces of the Romanesque art, were built in the first part of the 12th century.
The tympanum illustrates the Chapter 4 from the Apocalypse by John: The Second Coming.
Jesus Christ is represented majestically surrounded by 2 big angels and the representation of the 4 evangelists. Lined on 3 rows there are the sculptures of the 24 old men from the Apocalypse Chapter 4, Verse 4: "About the grand throne were 24 thrones upon which sat 24 old men dressed all in white with golden crowns upon their heads".
The interior of Saint Pierre church bears in its architecture the marks of the successive periods of construction.
The lower part of the building dates from the 12th century. In the 15th century the walls were heighten, the domes of the old church were replaced with the gothic style "palm tree" ceiling and as mentioned above the whole choir replaced.
The decorations inside - dating mainly from the 15th century - were extensively renovated in the 19th and the 20th century (for the most outstanding statuary groups see the photo gallery).
The pipe organ dates from the 17th century.
The bell tower of the cathedral houses under its pyramidal roof 24 bells.
September from 9am to 6pm
April - May - June to October: 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm - weekends from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6pm
November to March from 10am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm - weekends and holidays from 2pm to 5pm