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summit of the same mountain upon a lower spur of which is built the town he thought to have left behind him.
St.-Marcel may stand for a type of the hill villages in this sparsely peopled neighbourhood. Possibly it may contain ten or a dozen rude tenements, with as many more scattered over the parish ; but its only point of interest, apart from the fine position it occupies on the mountain crest, is a small but pretty church, in front of which, on a weatherbeaten stone pedestal, stands an iron cross bearing the date 1776. A peasant, who was digging potatoes in a field hard by, as the writer paused a few moments to survey this relic of a bygone generation, broke off his work to enquire if the stranger saw 'quelque chose de curieux' in the battered metal before him. It was not easy, however, to get the cultivator of the soil to feel that the vast political and social upheaving that has rent society in France during the interval since its erection, and whose results have so largely benefited his class, could impart even a passing interest to such a survival, through the shocks of revolution, from another age and another order of things.
The glory of Conques is its church. This takes rank among the best examples of the early Norman type of Romanesque extant. Unlike many other buildings dating from so far back as the first half of the eleventh century, it has received hardly any later additions, not a trace of a pointed arch being visible throughout; nor is the huge pile of plain uncarved masonry relieved by any external decoration, save only a pair of good round-headed portals with elegantly moulded arches opening into the stately transept, and a sculpture of more recent date, over the great doorway, representing the Last Judgment. The vast exterior, exhibiting a lofty triangular front, flanked on the north side by a belfry, together with a Norman semi-circular apse at the east end, impresses by its sombre, unadorned simplicity; and a heavy octagon tower rising from the intersection of nave and transept forms a conspicuous object from every hill top and mountain side around.
But it is only on passing within that you begin to realize the true grandeur of the building, due in large measure to the triforium, which is developed to unusual proportions, and with rare beauty of effect. In few pointed churches do we see the feature in question expanded so as to become the main characteristic of the edifice. Here, however, we have a noble specimen of the architectural prototype of the modern gallery ’in a triforium whose arcade, opening into the nave at a dizzy height above it, is supported on pairs of tall slender columns, with sculptured capitals; both arcade and gallery being carried round the entire building, so that the ranges of columns follow not only the course of the nave, but likewise the transept and chancel. Looked at from below, the view is that of a double tier of arches, one above the other, the lower tier forming the arcade of the nave, and the upper tier that of the triforium—two arches of the latter filling a space equal to the broader arch of the nave : whereas, from above, the effect is that of standing high aloft on an upper storey or gallery, whence our ancestors of the eleventh century gave to the triforium (then lately devised) the vernacular English name of 'upfloor'; although the former word is at least as old as Gervase, who, speaking of the side aisle of a Norman church in the west of England, says 'that its wall supported a gallery to which is given the name of triforium.''
Some idea of the height of this constructional gallery may be conceived from the fact that it towers immeasurably above the organ-loft, which is itself raised to an unusual elevation above the floor of the nave; while, as to breadth, the triforium gallery would admit of a dozen persons standing abreast. Indeed, the singular elegance and size of this 'upfloor' render it an architectural study, to which cause doubtless must be ascribed the opinion pronounced by M. Mérimée, inspector-general of historical monuments in 1837, that Conques is a
perfect model’of its style, and the finest specimen of the- kind in France. For when, in surveying Ste.-Foy from the interior, you take in its soaring height (which alone imparts to it something of that sublimity we usually associate with pointed Gothic cathedrals), the grand scale of its transept, and the fine dimensions of the triforium, you feel that the perfection of proportion has been reached by the eleventh-century architect, and that, with a total absence of ornamental detail, an effect is produced leaving nothing to be desired. So stately, indeed, are the wings, or arms of the cross, that (as has been said of St. Mary Redcliffe by a recent critic)
14... supra quem murum via erat quæ triforium appellatur.'
the view from either end of the transept suggests the idea of one spacious church intersecting another at right angles; the four tall central arches giving support to an external tower, thus completing, without as well as within, the form of a church of the first rank.
Unlike many, perhaps most, Norman churches, the choir extends far east of the transept; and its roof rests on some half-dozen noble piers, tall and massive, which are being replaced, in the restoration now going on, by as many new columns in fac-simile. These, it must be allowed, seem to be not inferior to the original work, and the stone is drawn from the same quarry—that of Lunel ; yet, historically and archæologically, one cannot but regret the substitution. A broad choir-aisle is carried round, or behind, the choir, the latter terminating in these six columns arranged in a semicircular form. Up above soars the triforium which, as already intimated, makes a circuit of the entire fabric—probably one of the most remarkable buildings surviving, whole and entire, from so early a period as the first half of the eleventh century. For, in estimating aright the merits of this church, it is important to bear in mind its early date, the consecration of Ste-Foy de Conques, after full fifteen years' labour spent upon it by Abbot Odolric, having been held in 1050.