St-Michel-de-Cuxa

 

Three kilometres south of Prades is the delightful working abbey of St-Michel-de-Cuxa. Originally founded in 883, it is a superb example of Romanesque architecture, boasting a 10th century bell tower, 12th century cloister and a lovely iris garden.

 

Although it was mutilated after the Revolution, it is still beautiful. The bare stone crypt and church – the altar slab was rediscovered doing duty as a balcony on a house in the village of Vinca – are impressive enough, but the glory of the place is the cloister. Although some of the capitals were shipped off to the Cloisters Museum in New York early in the twentieth century, those that remain are a feast for the eyes. Carved in the twelfth century in rose-pink marble from Villefranche-de-Conflent, they are decorated with highly stylised human, animal and vegetable motifs.

 

The abbey is inhabited by a small community of Benedictine monks from Monserrat in Spain.

 

St-Michel-de-Cuxa hosts concerts during the Pablo Casals Music Festival in July and August, but is also open for viewing most of the year.

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