Conques Abbey © Phillip Capper
Conques occupies a spectacular position on the flanks of the steep, densely wooded gorge of the little River Dourdou, a tributary of the Lot, and is one of the great villages of southwest France. The site was chosen as a retreat by a hermit called Dadon in the 7th century, and was named from the Latin concha, meaning shell. Dadon founded a community of Benedictine monks here, one of whom pilfered the relics of the martyred girl, Ste Foy, from the monastery at Agen. Known for her ability to cure blindness and liberate captives, Ste Foy's presence brought pilgrims flocking to Conques and the magnificent Romanesque abbey-church became a prime stop on the pilgrimage route to Compostela in Spain. Pilgrims still come today, along with tourists who come to admire Conques' beautiful setting. Conques is renowned to be one of the most beautiful villages in France and parts of the original town walls and gates survive, sealing in the narrow, cobbled village streets and the picturesque medieval houses spread out across the hillside. Conques Abbey was built between the 10th and 12th centuries, and the church and cloisters are truly impressive. The tympanum (carving above the main doorway) of the Last Judgement in the abbey is considered a masterpiece of 12th-century art.