and the Rouergue

From Aurillac and the Auvergne we drove south to the region known historically as the Rouergue.
Our first stop was at a charming little medieval town called Montsalvy.

This former castle is now a retirement home!

From there it was not much farther to another village with a church dedicated to Saint Gerald, called Banhars.

Left: the church of St.-Géraud in Banhars (the clock tower is modern).
Right: a stained-glass image of Saint Gerald meeting the pope in Rome.

Further south was another village with a church to Saint Gerald: the village of Concourès.

Left: the church of St.-Géraud at Concourès. Right: a stained-glass image of Saint Gerald.

Note that unlike most of the other images of Gerald this image depicts him as
clean-shaven, which is more in keeping with what his medieval biographer said about him.

Concourès is just outside of the large city of Rodez, where Matt did some research
in the archives while Brian and Joe wandered around the old town.

The cathedral of Rodez dates from the end of the Middle Ages.

From Rodez we made our way at the end of the day to Capdenac-le-Haut, a tiny village situated
on top of a steep cliff overlooking the Lot River valley. The medieval walls that surround
the village are still intact. The village is absolutely picturesque. The village claims to be the
location of the historical Uxellodunum, where the Gauls made their last (unsuccessful) stand against
Julius Caesar and the conquering Romans in 51 B.C. Regardless of whether this claim is true or not,
the village was bypassed when the railway reached the region in the 18th century, and most of
the population moved down to the base of the cliffs, leaving the medieval village mostly intact.

The medieval stone houses and narrow streets of Capdenac-le-Haut
(the smaller of the two streets on the right is named Rue St.-Géraud).

A medieval archway looking out onto the Lot River valley.

The medieval walls with a gate and a tower were built during the Hundred Years War.

Our hotel is the building on the right; our room was the one with the balcony.

The church in Capdenac-le-Haut is not dedicated to Saint Gerald,
but it does contain two rare examples of recent art images of him.

Left: the church at Capdenac-le-Haut, dedicated to St. Jean-Baptiste.
Center and right: a painting and a sculpture of Saint Gerald, both from the 1970s.

Not far from Capdenac-le-Haut were churches dedicated to Saint Gerald
in the town of Montbazens and the village of La Capelle-del-Vern.

Left: the church of St.-Géraud at Montbazens.
Right: the medieval priory for the church and modern town hall.

(All of these churches dedicated to Saint Gerald were staffed by monks from the monastery at Aurillac. They usually built residences next to the churches, called priories, where small groups of monks would live before returning to the monastery and replaced by other monks. Some of these priories survive, and many have tall round towers for defence.)

Left: the church of St.-Géraud at La Capelle-del-Vern.
Center: a statue of St. Gerald there. Right: the interior of the church.

We met two very nice people in this last village (they can be seen in the interior photo above and next to the house below). The man was a local historical buff and the woman invited us to her patio for a glass of peach wine she had made herself. They also took us to the oldest house in the village (seen below), which had been a blacksmith's house and contained a forge in the basement (seen below, now full of junk).

Also in this region is the Gouffre de Padirac. It is a huge sinkhole (247 feet deep and 325 feet in circumference) that leads to an underground river. We descended to the bottom of the sinkhole and then got into rowboats that took us from one cave to another along this river for a half a mile. It was spectacular!

Left: looking up from the bottom of the sinkhole. Center: the stairs and elevator that descended from the top of it.

(It wasn't permitted to take photos while on the boat.)

As we drove away from the region of the Rouergue, we stopped at the town of Rocamadour. It was a famous medieval pilgrimage site and a shrine to the Virgin Mary, with one of medieval Europe's famous "Black Madonna" statues, dating from the twelfth century, still in the church. Now the town is still very touristy, especially on the Sunday when we visited it, although mostly with French tourists.

An old automobile club poster for Rocamadour.

The town is perched on the side of a steep cliff, and there is
only one streeton each level, but we walked all the way to the top.

The pilgrimage church dates from the Middle Ages, and was carved into the side of the cliff.

Left: the interior shows the cliff wall at one end of the Gothic church. Right: the Black Madonna.

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