Conques, France: The Abbey of Saint Foy
About Saint Foy:
Little is recorded about the brief life of Saint Foy….she was martyred in the year 303 at the age of twelve. A member of a wealthy pagan family in Agen, she converted to Christianity at a young age. Despite her family’s wishes, she refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and was eventually brought before the emperor Dacien, who had been ruthlessly persecuting the Christians. When she still refused she was tortured and then beheaded. The effect of this was not what the emperor wished; in fact, it resulted in more people choosing Christianity and therefor being martyred.
After her martyrdom, other Christians hid her remains so that the authorities could not find them and scatter them. The local Christians met to venerate her relics and miracles began to be reported. In 324, Christianity suddenly became legal under the Emperor Constantine and her relics were placed on display in Agen.
Now a bit of skulduggery enters the story: The monks of Conques were anxious to get her relics as a way to encourage pilgrims to visit their abbey. After failing to negotiate the transfer with the Church of Saint Foy in Agen, they stole them and brought them to Conques.
About the Abbey of Saint Foy:
The Popularity of Conques grew over the centuries, and it became a favorite stopover on the Pilgrim Route of Saint James that ran from Le Puy, in France, to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.
Conques means “shell” in Latin, and the conque shell is the symbol of the route of Saint James.
You will spot pilgrims wearing the shell (shown to the right) as they make the journey from various parts of France across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
The Abbey of Saint Foy contains many unique architectural features in addition to the relics of Saint Foy. The carvings of various scenes both within and outside the Abbey attract visitors.
Traveling to Conques:
You can reach Conques by train from many cities in France traveling as far as Saint-Christophe-Vallon, from there there is a shuttle service that will take you to Conques (about 10 miles). There is also Rodez-Aveyron Airport with some regional flights. Get train & bus schedules, see fares & buy tickets here
Address: Place De L’Abbaye, 12320 Conques
GPS coordinates: 44° 35′ 57.3936” N, 2° 23′ 52.3464” E
Tel: (+33) 05 65 69 85 12
Click here for the official website of the Abbey of Saint Foy.
Sources: Heater, James, and Colleen Heater. The Pilgrim’s France: A Travel Guide to the Saints. Nevada City, CA: Inner Travel, 2004. Print.
Photo courtesy Tourist office of Conques