Restoration of Le Chapitre goes on

Untitled_Artwork 6Église_du_chapitre_de_Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet

Here are links to bare-bones info about Le Chapitre of St. Paul de Fenouillet, which is located on a prominent hill overlooking the Agly River as it emerges from the Gorges de Galamus to the north and flows through the smaller gorge, the Clou de la Fou to the south on its way to the sea. The tributary Boulzane River joins the Agly before plunging under a Roman footbridge at the base of a towering crag.

When we settled in St. Paul ten years ago, the mairie sponsored a welcome aperitif for newcomers at Le Chapitre, so we were able to see the site before the current restoration work began. Bare walls and niches stripped of all adornment, support beams and creaky temporary flooring, the domed chapel looked unfinished, truly a work in progress.

The Church founded a collegial house here in the 8th century and it survived the wars of the Cathar Heresy in the 13th-14th centuries. Le Chapitre was built in the mid-1300s to house the regional administration attached to the cathedral in Alet-les-Bains (Aude), possibly as a reinforcement of the Church’s victory over the local Cathars. In this capacity as a hub of clerical networking in the upper Aude and Agly rivers, Le Chapitre played a role in the convoluted and hermetic entanglements of local priests and laymen with links to the notorious Abbé Saunier of Rennes-le-Château.

During the French Revolution, the collegial chapel was confiscated by the state and Church officials sent packing. In due course the site passed to private owners who sold off the chapel’s interior statuary and marble decorations and converted the chapel and chapter house into apartments a hayloft.

The current renovation began over a year ago and will continue for some months to come.

The courtyard is spacious and surrounded by cedars and oleander. The first two summers we were here, the commune sponsored a jazz concert in August. We have missed these open-air events, the extreme surreality of be-bop on the site of a Neolithic village and Roman villa. Perhaps with the renovation of the site, the commune will be ready to show off with more jazz. The bands that played were local musicians—all the big names go to Marciac in the summer!—and they did a decent job with basic classics. The bassist was especially good. No Ron Carter, but who is?


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