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Brian Looked at Cadouin (never visited) but its 'status' as a pilgrimage town is complex. Don't know if you get pilgrims/walker traveling through, but it is not part of the Vezeley route, the main southern route extending to Paris, nor is it part of the route from Le Puy-en-Valey. However, on investigation, there was an earlier route (either not or little used today) coming from Brioude that travel sty-west to Bergerac, then Agen. It seems this route was 'superseded; by the Le Puy route when the monks of Conques STOLE St Foy's relics from Agen. That's business for you. Anyway, it is recounted in my Pilgrimage book Three, but I add the story (without pics) below.


Conques pronounced Conk, like the shell, symbol of the many pathways converging on Santiago de Compostella, twelve hundred kilometres to the west. An ancient refuge on a shell-like hillside in southern France, in remote valley where eighth century monks escaped the marauding Saracans, it’s impoverished founders building a hermitage in forest constellation, in backwoods Christian Europe, Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire.

That was old Conques.

The new was born of theft, when their monk stole the relics of St. Foy from Agen (866), the theft so swift and powerful that the pilgrim route to Santiago bypassed Agen, drawn to growing Conques.

St Foy? No towering figure of speech, resistance or Greek philosophy; merely a twelve-year old girl beheaded before she knew life’s power, religious agents proffering that fervent prayer in her name, would see slave’s chains fall away, the freed, carrying them to Conques, honouring and thanking little saint, laying themselves and their chains before her.

In time, so it is said, these chains were melted and reformed as the grill protecting the relics from thieves, or perhaps the monks of Agen, peasants in awe, one step above slavery, hopefully contemplating their good fortune in serfdom, begging release only from the chains of sin. The rich could do so at their leisure, presuming continuing generosity to the church.

Rare St Foy’s relics- sculpture and adornments housed in today’s museum, a stone head with skull fragment attached, perhaps St Foy herself, crushed in the last days of anti-Christian Rome, altogether representing the saint, though the stone perhaps only a reformed Roman emperor or senator’s head, a different decapitation.

Conques drew the rich and powerful, gifting their gold, soon founded into plating encasing the skull. As miracles increased, St Foy gained a gold crown, earrings, filigree work, cameos and jewels; still later, adorned with crystal balls, throne, silver arms and hands. By the eighteenth-century, she had a body with limbs and riches of a princess, bronze shoes and warrior plates at the knees.

Monks, masons and peasants built St Foy’s abbey-church (333333), a plan so bold and formative that a century passed before completion, eventually having five radiating chapels, a ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir without the gallery and a nave. Mon deiu, Conques- your theft is Success itself.

From twelfth-century onwards, on the camino route from Le Puy-en-Valey to the Pyrenees, Conques’ was unsurpassed, Cahor, Moissac or Rocamadour on their knees. Inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago de Compostela, its pilgrim traffic grew, the abbey adding a basilica, galleries, raised roof, choir and western aisle. While Europe sent thousands to their death in conquest of Jerusalem, the little hermitage became a village around stately abbey and church of fifty-nine metres, with high-crossing tower, its monks so powerful that they railed against the local bishop, depicted on its walls amongst those bound for Hell.

Yet still, in chains of guilty past, Conques’ abbots built an impressive Romanesque stone façade depicting the Last Judgment (1107-1125), including the words (roughly translated)

The depraved shall be plunged into purgatory, the wicked suffering the torments of the damned, roasting in the midst of flames and demons, perpetually groaning and trembling. Thieves, liars, deceivers, misers and ravishers, are all criminals.

Fair warning in dark times; it’s fearful and painful vision of punishment including over one hundred judged and ajudging- people, monsters, angels and demons, weighing-up those bound for damnation or forgiveness, Heaven or Hell, (the devil tipping the scales), the damned shoved down a monster’s throat, or lifted from this world by God’s gigantic hand; amongst them well-known figures of their times, the tympanum (panel above the church’s entrance) holding a rich brew of stories, largely lost, from likely murder mysteries, to historical thriller, turbulent political drama and moral tales, with occasional comic touch.

Walking into Conques that October, boots and walking sticks tapping on stone in the dimming light, crossing over ancient bridge, walking passed century’s old houses, inns and shops, descending its narrow streets, and stepping before church frontage, we pilgrims read the famous façade, coach tourists long departed, profligate birdlife twittering before the day’s curtain drew us indoors.

I witnessed not the museum relics, instead, seeing a senior religious figure standing beneath The Last Judgment, delivering compelling oratory, enthralling me for twenty minutes of an hour long speech, he, sans notes, voice and speech so erudite and melodious; a fine achievement, especially as I understood few words, and none of their meanings.

After one week tramping high country, without the ancient pilgrim pleasures of meeting the Massif Centrale’s sleet, ice, wind and snow, listening through the fog for life-saving bells, by night huddling around small fireplaces in tiny market towns, or bedding down in hay, barns and hospitales, eating bread and drinking weak beer, a modern pilgrim is ready for the joys, comforts and trials of an abbey stay, abbey perched over ancient graveyard, dark monks below in opaque contemplation. Fifty fellow pilgrims sat around dinner’s long tables, hearing and telling today’s stories, gaining and giving advice, tasting local artichokes, squash, oranges or blue-vein cheese (the best I’ve ever tasted), collectively fraternal and blissful, though I confess, including night-filled thirty-people occupying squeaky beds in common room.

Like so most pilgrims and journeyers en route to Santiago, we left next morning, without understanding much of you or the surrounding countryside. Sure, we knew of Conques’ UN World Heritage status (like so much of France), learnt of the preservation of its streets and buildings, prime location for period filmmakers, and understood its church and abbey were a wonderful step back in time. But enlightened pilgrims admit- our tunnel vision ruled most earnestly on arrival, and in departure: food, friends and distance, our journey’s trinity.

Next morning- in swirling valley mist, by stone walls and green-gray woodland fold; our first steps confirm ghostly and auspicious departure. Without cars in sight, the cobblestones underfoot, forest birdlife serene and joyous, food and friendship reconciled, distance is our tunnel. Joining endless road, crossing it, and joining another’s upward path, I breathe deep at pedestrian pathway upwards, bound for Decazeville.

But I am stealing back to Conques some day, not to repeat the experience, nor return St Foy to Agen, but to transcend it. The pilgrim journey is a first way of ways; the next, when you receive the magic within, the magic without, standing still.

© G McDougal

Note on Conques and pilgrimage on the Camino Frances. Decsending the Massif Central’s highlands, Le Puy-en-Valey pilgrims have another three day’s walk to reach Conques, via Espallion, L’Estiang, Golinac, then Conques. The pleasant, attractive route is hilly, much of it using country lanes and pastoral and (occasionally) forest track, where phone reception and internet availability not to be presumed. Yes, you are in France, to be precise, on the Averyon’s north, a thinly populated rural region on good pasture, until the less-arable limestone ‘causes’ south and west of Conques. The nearest sizable towns are Figaec and Rodez.

Town: start with Wikipaedia: Conques

Rebecca - I've now deleted three of your posts for containing commercial links which contravenes our T&C. If you post again with a link I will suspend your membership. If you wish to advertise on SFN please contact James by email



Interesting. Have you looked at the western route of the Compostella trail? I live about five minutes from Cadouin which started as a monastery on what was presumably the 'English' route into Spain being well in amongst the Bastides that mark the old Aquitanian 'English' kingdom's border with the French and where most of the 100 years war was fought and politicked out.

I am anthro, more a dropped out than retired academic, so my eyes and ears are always tuned to stories. I do not write fiction though, but still academic work when doing it seriously so do not use the wonderful ethnographies scattered around.

Can I just reiterate - links to published work are fine - links to your website building services are NOT.

This is the one part of SFN where we've decided to let people add 'commercial' links - i.e to Kindle / Amazon etc. on the grounds that authors need all the help they can get and if anyone turns out to be the next JK Rowling or indeed, sells a fair few, they will have the decency to make a donation to SFN.

Please don't spoil this concept by posting inappropriate links. I don't have the time to police every comment so it will just lead to a "no links full stop" policy which will ruin it for everyone else - thanks!

Thanks Rebecca, I'll keep that in mind for when I've a budget. Currently battling along trying using Website Builder from GoDaddy. It's not bad, it's just me that's incompetent. I know exactly what I want (visually oriented), just don't have the brain-wiring for that sort of techno thing.Oh well, I'll upskilling a bit I suppose.

The Doctor and the Dipsomaniac

DOCTOR LATYMER arrives on a council estate in Leicester, England, a country full of hope after dreadful experiences of the Second World War. The Doctor settles into life on the estate trying to forget the nightmare images in his memory of the concentration camp, Belsen. The young doctor quickly becomes the local miracle worker. When food poisoning strikes the estate residents, Doctor Latymer sets out to right injustices that he doesn't fully understand. He tangles with a capitalist and a politician in the British government. He sees the balance between rich and poor, the struggling economy still reliant on rationing and the black market.

The novel then takes a turn. Doctor Latymer moves from being the new and naïve doctor who has been cast into the role of sorting out the world’s problems, into a darker drama as those around him are accused of murder.

Doctor Latymer's story is a good British story, reflecting the history of its age as we are taken back to 1948, the years after the Second World War.
This is real page turner, over 400 pages worth.
Both the first and second novels are included here; so the price really is two for one! I guarantee that if you purchase this download, read it and dislike it, I will personally refund the cost.

In his review Stephen Butt of BBC Radio wrote -
"RICH IN ATMOSPHERE and the colour of the time, all the characters are alive. This is a true reflection of life in a certain suburb of Leicester in the English East Midlands, but the themes are universal. This could well be your neighbourhood facing the challenge of a changing world at the end of the 2nd World War. Enjoyable and challenging."


for French Amazon

Hello Frances,

Perhaps I can help you. I work with unique people with unique needs. I also understand budget issues!

Contact me if I can assist in helping get a nice website up and running.


Hello - I am an artist living near Carcassonne, I paint mostly in acyrilics, oil pastel and watercolour dye. I exhibit locally in restaurants and galleries and have an open studio in December. My paintings are described as quirky, I paint animals and landscapes. The French countryside where I live gives me ample inspitation, I could spend all my time in my studio.

On Tuesdays, other people join me for "Arty Farty" where we all get together and paint socially, some great work is tuned out. To view my work take a look at original work, posters and cards are for sale :-)

To see work carried out by our lovely Arty Farty members look at Arty Farty Yac n Yarn on Facebook.

Happy days ;-)

Go on then Garry - add a profile photo - then we will know who you are when we meet you!

What a talented lot! Just add my own books. Belonging (historical fiction), tow guide books (out of print) and three small books on the Way of St James/Camino de Santiago published last week at Actually, the are more about the towns pilgrims pass through, usually too quickly.

Here's the blurb

New travel writing at its best, Pilgrimage relives the pilgrim's journey with affection and bite, lovingly descriptions of pilgrim towns and villages, written with a vibrant and passionate pen.
Commentators say Pilgrimage is “beautiful poetic writing", with “inspired metaphor, written “to a breathless walking rhythm”.

The Peter Cowan Short Story Prize judge wrote that ‘Beating Time’, one Pilgrimage story, is 'An epic evocation of place. Yes, this story proves that you can produce an epic in a mere 488 words! Like all good fiction, perhaps, this piece is ultimately an investigation into how time passes and works. Energetic, almost punch-drunk writing (I mean that as a complement!): "Let the dogs and big ideas fight over the bones behind the Calle mayor". Fabulous!
Towns of interest include Conques, Santiago de Compostella, Astorga, Arzua, Decazeville, St Jean-Pied-de-Port, Najera, Figaec, Decazeville, Le Puy and Belorado.

All of 99c (US) each.

Last confession. I don't live in France, but come over for a couple of months every two years. As I shall be 'in town' in May and June, I and my wife, Virginia Nightingale, are keen to meet up with like-minded people in Southern France. I am a writer, Virginia a retired academic, both interested in history, archaeology, food!! and walking.

You can construct your own, free website at Only problem is (I think) it only lasts for a year before you need to pay.

Hi Frances, I would be happy to send you my two books on website design and web marketing if you want them. Then when you have some time a review on Amazon would be good, but only if you have time, sounds like you have a lot on. Just PM me if you would like to with an email I can use.

I will go and like your facebook page now, hope that helps. Best wishes.

What perfect timing, Catharine!

I am 'stuck' (gives whole new meaning to the word) in the south of France due to a fractured left arm.

I should be in the UK looking after people with reduced mobility...and now I am one! The downside is I am not earning any money...apart from a few sales of my books on amazon.

So, please, anyone who enjoys a rom-com in the south of France aka All Expenses Paid or science fiction, Shelf Life or maybe a thriller set 80's Singapore, Khamaileon or an anthology of short stories, A Mouse in the Vinaigrette...available to buy on amazon.

See, something for everyone.

And topical blogs, too. All on :


Hi Joan,

I've not met David Ward yet, but I know he's still there. To be honest all the people at Bloomsbury are just really lovely. It seems to be one of those companies where everyone loves what they are doing and it shows.

Thanks for the luck, it seems to be needed in this climate, but not much I can do now it's printed!

Claire x

Hi Claire

In times past, I was a Sales Dir of a large Bookselling Company and I knew the wonderful David Ward who worked at Bloomsbury. Have you had any contact with him during your publishing experience.

He's a lovely guy.

Good Luck.

It might be because I have spent pushing four years writing, not all the time of course, and had a lot of my material already. I have had the contract for the book for around six months and passed editors and reviewers. I literally finished revisions based on the reviews this morning and sent it back to the publisher. That took a couple of months. Anyway, careful with proposals... Just write a short synthesis of what you have written and let publishers send back forms, instructions or however they go about it. There is no single standard at all and bitter experience has taught me that so-called 'model proposals' are based on less rather than greater experience. Also, if you can use something like Library of Congress and British Library indexes to look at titles and abstracts, you will perhaps get a better idea of where there is a space for your work. I am lucky, I took a specialised and little explored topic and went for it and appear to have got there before others who might well be writing similar things.

Hello Frances, good luck with your pursuit of publication. It's a lonely old business, I found twitter a big help. I'm @ckingwriter on there xxx

Brian, you are much further ahead than me. I haven't finished editing my book yet, almost finished the proposal, started the query letter. So much to do but I am informed I''ve got to get my platform started NOW.

Well no, not yet. I have just sent my ms to Springer for my 'dust collector' about an hour before adding this. Now I shall wait until the editors, proofreaders and typesetters have done their bit and know that I am in the catalogue and then I shall brazenly add details. I know I am a hussy but I need to promote it to get my very few quid!

Hello everyone

I'm trying to get my book marketing underway, tricky when you can't use your local country. I've created a Facebook page for it titled To the Ends of the Earth which is linked to my personal page Frances S Harrison.

I'd greatly appreciate it if you could visit and LIKE it so I can start getting stats and coming up in Google searches. I'm also tweeting @parisnewbie. My book website will eventually be built by me when I extricate myself from the difficulties of figgering out how to do this (a priority, and will keep you posted on that). Huge learning curve changing one's career to publishing while keeping the essential day job going as I'm sure the rest of you know.