Marcilhac sur Cele was so pretty we were always going to go back.
In the interim I did my much loved researching online to find out more about the Abbaye Saint Pierre. Founded in the ninth century by Benedictine monks from Moisssac, by the 12th century it had become rich and powerful and even tried to take Rocamadour into its possessions. When the hundred years war ravaged the area it was destroyed by the English troops. Rebuilding work in the 15th century came to nothing as the Protestants burnt it down during the French wars of religion. After that the reformation and French revolution finished any influence it might have had. Nowadays there is fund raising to restore as much as possible with the village cure even persuaded to do a parachute jump! A secondhand organ was found and donated by Craggvale parish in Manchester.
There is an emotional comment about the English making restitution for the damage done in the Hundred Years War on the Abbey website. We used to hear a lots of comments about that war and wonder how deep that scar goes locally! All these events mean the abbey is an amalgam of its history, some of it standing as picturesque and formidable ruins and a lofty interior containing that organ.
We drove across the causse once more, poppies still there amongst the fields where haymaking was finally happening now the weather had dried up. Down into the gorge of the Cele with its breathtaking limestone cliffs and into the village ‘place’.
Not many cars parked which was a relief as the school holidays were approaching but the confusion of deconfinement meant many children had never actually gone back.
I led Lou along the riverbank and showed him the archway we had to duck through to arrive behind the abbey (the result of a swift recce the last time we were this way).
At this point we lost each other. It is ever thus. Cameras in hand we wander about taking photos, nosing around in corners and then happening upon each other eventually. The village is much tinier than I had expected but a positive jewel containing some beautiful old buildings aside from the abbey. I couldn’t find any brochures about the place as the tourist office was shut.
The tourist office!
I was keen to know if it was ever flooded as the buildings go right down to the river. Plus did the abbey control the salt route as several had along the Dordogne in medieval times when salt was an expensive item? Marcilhac is on the Santiago de Compostela route but then so many villages lay claim to that in this area I tend to think it is a tourism ploy rather than a reality. Even Gagnac has the familiar scallop shells pasted on lamp posts etc to show the ‘way’, a detour to Rocamadour from Figeac.
Back at the car the picnic was unloaded but not the table and chairs as we had noticed picnic tables next to the plan d’eau. Lou went to bag a table while I visited the epicerie for some postcards. I found some fabulous cherries for sale too….dessert!
There was a gang of lads with canoes and a radio on the grass by the water but not too loud so the peaceful atmosphere was maintained. An ouvrier was eating his packed lunch at the next table and wished us bon appetit. Lou’s beer had been remembered so all was good. Over lunch we watched the world go by and listened to the frogs…again and the Abbey clock sounding the quarters.
“I wouldn’t fancy swimming in that’, said Lou, nodding at the slowly moving and very green water. I had to agree it didn’t look inviting but the setting is fabulous. The village and its riverbank are dwarfed by the towering limestone cliffs that rise up on the far side.
Lunch over, rested and curiosity satisfied…for now, we made for home. But first we crossed the river just beyond the village and followed the road we had noticed that ran at the bottom of that towering ‘falaise’. It took us back past the village (but no suitable place for a photo) and then up into the forest of Marcilhac. Eventually we circled back to Saint Sulpice, a village clinging to the vertiginous hillside. We took the road up and out of the village and eventually came to a ‘point de vue’. Photos were taken, poppies included!