The Cathedral of Saint Bertrand de Comminges
UNESCO Heritage List
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Saint Marie Cathedral of Saint Bertrand de Comminges is referred to as the Mount Saint Michel of the Pyrenees as a reference to the famous Mount of the North of France or as the Cathedral of the Pyrenees
The cathedral situated in the village of Saint Bertrand de Comminges - member of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" organization - on the top of a steep 515 meter (1700 feet) hill that dominates the valley that the Haute Garonne cleaved between the central Pyrenean peaks.
The village of Saint Betrand de Comminges has a long history dating from the roman times when it was a flourishing roman colony named Lugdunum Convernarum. The ruins of the roman settlement can still be seen at the foothill witnesses of the former city development.
The roman city was definitely destroyed in 585AD by Gontrand of Orléans, the king of Franks, but by these times the population, already Christianized, had already moved towards the top of the nearby hill setting up a new community that will later in 13th century form the Saint Bertrand de Comminge village.
The community knew another development period starting with the 11th century when Bertrand de L'Isle, a member of a noble family from Gascony, was appointed bishop of the diocese of the region.
Under the bishop's command a new cathedral, located on the site of the nowadays church and whose Romanesque style building parts as well as the cloister on the south side of the building are still visible- and Episcopal buildings were built.
In 1222 Bertrand de l'Isle was canonized and the town changed its name to Saint Bertrand de Comminges.
The relics of Saint Bertrand kept in the cathedral became in the centuries after his death a pilgrimage place in itself and triggered the emergence of the so called route de Piemont of the pilgrims who were making a detour from the Arlés road on their way to Saint Jacques de Compostelle.
To accommodate the increasing number of visitors Bertrand de Got, future Pope Clement V between 1305 &nd 1314, bishop of Comminges between 1294 and 1299, decided to expand the cathedral.
The new nave, built in the Gothic architectural style, was built between 1304 and 1350.
In 1430 bishop Pierre de Foix built a grand mausoleum for the relics of Saint Bertrand and in the 16th century Bishop Jean de Mauleon built the Renaissance choir inaugurated in 1535, the jube and the organ case. The pipe organ of the cathedral is considered one of the best sounding in the South West of France.
On the left wall of the church close to the main entrance one's eyes happen with surprise upon a ...crocodile, a relic mounted on the wall. The origin of this artifact is still debated but most opinions converge to the conclusion that it is a crocodile brought by a pilgrim from Egypt in the Middle Ages and the meaning of its display on one of the walls was to chase the evil spirits!
ha, ha, ha .... a crocodile on the wall of the Church! I never saw something like this before!!!!!