Perpignan - St. Genis des Fontaines: End of the line - France: Between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees - CycleBlaze

September 4, 2007

Perpignan - St. Genis des Fontaines: End of the line

The tourist office in Perpignan has supplied us with some information on the region. I have discovered two more southerly points of interest for us to visit and then it's the end of the line. The Pyrenees and time dictate that we must start on the return trip.

Leaving Perpignan
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Leaving Perpignan we are not looking for a bike path, but again one just presents itself. When the bike path comes to an end we have small roads until we reach Elne, our first stop, 15 kilometers south of Perpignan. Like Narbonne, Elne has been deserted by the sea and lies four kilometers inland from the Mediterranean.

The town has an interesting and long history that includes Hannibal and his elephants stopping there for a while en route to Italy in the 3rd century BC. The main attraction is the Cathedral Sainte Eulalie et Sainte Julie, completed in the 11th century.

Cathedral Sainte Eulalie et Sainte Julie
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Its impressive cloister in blue veined marble was built between the 12th and 14th centuries, showing both Romanesque and the Gothic sculpture. The wealth of detail is amazing: Romanesque archways supported by pairs of pillars are decorated with capitals showing griffins, mermaids, lions, rams and scenes from the bible.

Cloister in Elne: Adam and Eve
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Cloister in Elne with richly sculpted capitals
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We have a wonderful view from the cathedral over the town, and beyond the town loom the Alberes Mountains.

View from Elne Cathedral
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We ride on to St. Génis-des-Fontaines to visit yet another Benedictine abbey, founded at the end of the 8th century, our last abbey for this trip. The lintel of the church is the oldest dated Romanesque sculpture (1019-1020), the cloister is from the later Romanesque period (13th century).

As was the case with all church property during the French Revolution, in 1796 the abbey was confiscated and became national property. In 1922 the abbey saw yet another dramatic change. An antique dealer from Paris bought and dismantled most of the priceless cloister. Not until 1986 and thanks to the efforts of conservationists, were many of the stones brought back and reinstalled. By 1994 much of the original, including access to the church had been restored.

Doorway of St. Michel
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Lintel over the doorway to St. Michel showing Christ borne by two archangels and flanked by six apostles
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Here, too, the Romanesque cloister has amazing ornament on the columns.

In the cloister in St. Génis des Fontaines
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The camping municipal of St. Génis looks lovely from the gate, but it's closed for the season. Fortunately, there is also a camping à la ferme outside of town, and we can set up our tent on a field next to a peach orchard.

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