Collégiale de La Romieu
Cloister in La Romieu (Gers)
The name 'La Romieu' appears for the first time in old documents dated in 1082. Arnaud d'Aux was born in this little village in Gascony in 1265 and later became cardinal in 1312. To honour his birth region he ordered the construction of this Collegiale de La Romieu. In the village you will find many sculptures of cats in honour of Angeline and the Legend of the Cats.
Abbey on the pilgrimage route
As a result, on the pilgrimage route to St-Jacques de Compostelle in 1318 an abbey with a church, two towers and a court were constructed in gothic style. One of the towers is an octoganal completely closed structure. The other tower is a much more square-shaped open structure carrying the chruch bells. In the church which is beautifully restored, there are unique frescos with esoteric motives and black angels on display for the public. The tiled floor is still in its original state.
Visiting the abbey and church
The entire complex which is now protected by Unesco is very well preserved and can be visited almost entirely. The sun-flooded courtyard leads to the majestic church where the frescos are on display. You can climb one of the towers using a very narrow stone-carved staircase past several rooms at different levels, leading eventually to the actual roof of the church. The rooftop construction is very impressive and the view over the rolling hills of the Gers is fantastic.
For more information, surf to the internet website of La Romieu at www.la-romieu.com.
Jardins de Coursiana
In the small village of La Romieu there is also a large botanic garden spanning some 6ha. These gardens feature an arboretum, an English garden and an area dedicated to medicinal plants. There are individual but also combination tickets for sale to both tourist attractions. And what is better than to enjoy a cool drink on the terrace in the village being supervised by Angeline and her cats....
More information about the gardens of Coursiana: www.jardinsdecoursiana.com.
Angeline and the Legend of the Cats
In the year 1338, in a Gascon village called LA ROMIEU, renowned for its beautiful collegiate built 20 years previously, Vincent and Mariette lived contentedly. Vincent was a woodman and his wife often accompanied him into the forest to make up bundles of faggots. They worked hard, and with their poultry and pig, their fruit and vegetable garden, their table was always laid full with food.
They had been married for 3 years when Mariette gave birth to a little girl, whom they called Angeline. Alas, one day Vincent was crushed by a tree he was felling. Inconsolable, Mariette sank into a depression and 2 months later was found dead, holding little Angeline in her arms. The little girl was taken in by a neighbour and was brought up with their children like one of their own.
Angeline showed a great affection for cats and there were always one or two around her which at night even slept in her bed. She also often shared her bowl of food with them. With the passing of time, Angeline became a healthy young girl who helped her adoptive parents in the fields, always accompanied by her cats.
In 1342 and the 2 years that followed, the winters were harsh and the spring and summer so wet that it was impossible to sow their crops. There followed a great famine and inspite of the distribution of the collegiate reserves by the lord Arnaud d'Aux, the inhabitants soon had nothing left to eat. They thought of the numerous cats in the village and set about catching them.
Angeline's adoptive parents, knowing how much she loved hers, allowed her to keep a male and female cat on the condition she hid them well, as the neighbours would gladly kill them. Angeline, therefore, shut her two cats in the attic by day and at nignt she let them out to hunt. But the famine grew worse and many villagers died. Angeline and her parents barely subsisted by collecting roots in the woods and sometimes they found mushrooms but it was hardly sufficient. Weakened by hunger, they managed somehow to survive this terrible period and more clement times finally arrived, allowing them to harvest what they needed to live on.
But in LA ROMIEU where the cats had disappeared, the rats proliferated to a point where the crops were once again threatened. Angeline, with infinite caution, had been able to hide her cats in the attic and they had produced several young kittens. There were now about 20 of these cats. The villagers wrung their hands over the damage caused by the rats. Angeline announced that she was going to release some 20 cats which the inhabitants would be able to adopt. The rats rapidly disappeared and it is thus that Angeline ressembled more and more, with the passing of time, one of her cats, her ears looking more and more like the ears of a cat.
A sculpture named Maurice Serreau heard this story when a grandmother told this legend to her grandchildren. While listening to the story the idea came to him to revive the legend by placing cat sculptures all over La Romieu. Today you can go on a discovery tour through La Romieu to find these cat images and sculptures. See below for the details.
Discovery tour through La Romieu
In La Romieu you will find numerous signs, stone sculptures and other images featuring cats. This has everything to do with the legend of Angeline and her cats. In order to get to know La Romieu better, Dirk Branders developed a discovery tour through La Romieu in search of these cats. The great thing about the discovery tour is that you will suddenly see things that you otherwise would have missed. Click here for the details of this discovery tour.