The Abbey of Saint-Gilles is included in the UNESCO Heritage List, as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. According to the legend, it was founded in the 7th century by saint Giles, over lands which had been given him by the Visigoth King Wamba after he had involuntarily wounded the saint during a hunt. The monastery was initially dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul: however, in the 9th century, the dedication was changed to St. Giles himself, who had become one of the most venerated figures in the area. His relics were housed in the abbey church and attracted numerous pilgrims.
In the 11th century, the monastery was attached to Cluny abbey. Thanks to its prosperity, it was enlarged and decorated from the 12th to the 15th century, when the cloiser was finished. In the 16th century the church, in the course of the Wars of Religion, was devastated when the Huguenots took shelter in it. Restorations were held in the 17th century and again, after further damage during the French Revolution, in the 19th century. The tomb of St. Giles was rediscovered in 1865, becoming again a pilgrim destination from 1965.
The abbey church is in typical southern French Romanesque style. The façade, built from 1120 to 1160, has a decorated entrance portico with three portals with Corinthian columns and medieval sculpture decorations. These include, in the lower sector, a bestiary and scenes from the Old Testament. The bell tower dates to the 18th century.
The crypt, or lower church, dates to the early 11th century. It measures 50 by 25 meters, and occupies the whole subterranean section of the nave. In its center is the tomb of St. Giles, a medieval place of veneration until in the 16th century, his relics were moved to the Basilica of Saint Sernin at Toulouse. The upper church, with a nave and two apses, mostly belongs to the 17th-century reconstruction, aside from the massive pillars in Corinthian style.
Behind the apse are the remains of the ancient choir, which once were part of the originally longer church. Inside the northern wall of the ancient choir is a spiral staircase dating to the 12th century, made of cantilevered stone steps.References:
Olargues is a good example of a French medieval town and rated as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It was occupied by the Romans, the Vandals and the Visigoths. At the end of the 11th century the Jaur valley came under the authority of the Château of the Viscount of Minerve. The following centuries saw a succession of wars and epidemics, and it was not until the 18th century that Olargues became re-established. This was due to the prosperity of local agriculture and artisanal industry.
The Pont du Diable, 'Devil's Bridge', is said to date back to 1202 and is reputed to be the scene of transactions between the people of Olargues and the devil. The old village is clustered around the belltower, which was formerly the main tower of the castle (Romanesque construction). The old shops have marble frontages and overhanging upper storeys. A museum of popular traditions and art is to be found in the stairs of the Commanderie.