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The Abbey Church of Sainte-Foy in Conques, France, was a popular stop for pilgrims traveling the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain.

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Sainte-Foy Abbey history

Sainte-Foy Abbey, also known as Conques Abbey and Abbey de Sainte Foy, was one of the churches along the medieval pilgrimage route to the Spanish cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The main reason for this was that Sainte-Foy Abbey has held the relics of its namesake, Sainte Foye, since the ninth century.

Sainte Foye, translated as “Saint Faith” was a young girl said to have been martyred during the persecution of the Christians under the Roman Empire. Her relics were held at a monastery in Agen before being stolen by a monk and brought to Sainte-Foy Abbey, where they have been ever since. They are inside a golden statue of the saint.

The original monastery building at Conques was an eighth-century oratory built by monks fleeing the Saracens in Spain. The original chapel was destroyed in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy caused the pilgrimage route to shift from Agen to Conques.

The second phase of construction, which was completed by the end of the 11th century, included the building of the five radiating chapels, the ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir without the gallery and the nave without the galleries. The third phase of construction, which was completed early in the twelfth-century, was inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago de Compostela.

Since 1998, Sainte-Foy Abbey has been a UNESCO World Heritage site, listed as one of the historic churches on the “Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France”.

Sainte-Foy Abbey today

Sainte-Foy Abbey is a Romanesque-style church with ornate carvings and picturesque towers. Like most pilgrimage churches Conques is a basilica plan that has been modified into a cruciform plan. Galleries were added over the aisle and the roof was raised over the transept and choir to allow people to circulate at the gallery level.

Its beautiful twelfth century tympanum is a depiction of the Last Judgement. Its treasury is brimming with a collection of works by goldsmiths from as early as the ninth century, which managed to survive the French Revolution by being hidden away.

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Getting to Sainte-Foy Abbey

The address of the abbey is Place De L’Abbaye, 12320 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.