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Village Catalan
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Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines


Situated between the Mediterranean and the mountains, Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines with a population of 2066, enjoys the benefits of only 10 km to the sandy beaches of the Cote Vermeille, the foothills of the Albres-mountain range and no more than 17 km from the Spanish border, as well as the exceptionnal climate.

Leisure activities
The village of Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines offers its visitors not only open-air BBQ and picknic sites, a public square with children's playground, a boulodrome (the French national sport), tennis courts, and a stadion, but equally the chance of river fishing, hunting, hiking trails, mountain biking and horse-back riding.

Every Tuesday and Friday the market place has a number of local specialities to offer, and do not miss a visit to the communal vinery as well as to the excellent the local wine producers.

Cultural activities are well represented all year round; Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines is actually famous for the most ancient roman sculpture, the lintel above the door of the church St. Michel, dating 1020. A transfrontier itinerary reveals some of the most remarkable samples of Roman and pre-roman art in the Roussillon and in Ampurdan (Spain).

The Catalan Roman History

The Abbey
The Benedictine abbey of Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines was founded at the end of the 8th century by Sentimir. It was pulled down in the 10th century, then rebuilt during the following decades. The abbey first depended on Cluny, then, in 1507, on Montserrat (near Barcelona). In the beginning the monastery was the center of intensive activities, but after the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, it's influence became les important. The French Revolution in 1789 did not spare the abbey which was sold as National Property in 1796.

1922-24, Monsieur Gouvert, an antique dealer from Paris, bought and dismantled the cloister. Most of the columns and capitals were sent to the castle of the Mnuls (Yvelines). Two arcatures were left in the museum of Louvre and three others were sold to a museum in Philadelphia (USA) as a part of various apocryphal capitals. The south-east quarter, which was left, was classified as "Monument Historique" at the time.

Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, the stones sent to Ile-de-France and to the Louvre were brought back and reinstalled between 1986 and 1988.

Saint Gnis-des-Fontaines has started the reconstructing of this cultural heritage thus restoring on a high scale in 1993-94 involving in restoring the vaults, the ceilings and the groins of the lower part of the ambulatory, giving space to the library on the first floor, the museum and the exhibition gallery. A direct access to the church has been reinstated, and the roofs and the facades have been restored.

The church of Saint Michel
The church was built in the 9th century, then pulled down some time later in the 12th and 13th centuries. Inside, the Carolingian base is still visible, the rebuilding dates back to the 11th and the 13th centuries. The roof was originally a wood-frame work but was later reconstructed with barrel vaults. It is shaped into a latin cross with a single nave leading to a projecting transept and three apses.

On the front you will find funerary inscriptions on each side of the door. On the right bas relief a dead man is lying with his hands folded over his chest, and surrounded by two small figures. On the left no inscription has left any trace. A bit higher a small damaged bas relief shows the Crucifiction with the funerary inscription by Brother Michael, a sacristan who died on April 6th 1307. The other side of the door shows the epitaph of Lady Dulcia de Montroig who was buried here on December 8th 1271. Above, the epitaph of a recamier Brother Berenguer de Bellvespre who died on June 6th 1307.

Above the entrance door, the world reputed bas relief , the first roman sculpture dated 1019-1020 emerges. This stone must have been removed from another site and replaced on the front in the 12th century. The lintel pictures Christ in a mandorle borne by two archangels and surrounded by six apostles standing under arcades. The mandorle is made of two secant curves. The upper part represents the luminous glory of the divine figure and the lower part represents the earth globe under Christ's feet. The emerging corbels around the lintel used to support a canopy protecting the sculpture.

The Sainte Colombe de Cabanes Chapel
Situated at 2 kms to the north of the village, the chapel Santa Coloma (Sainte Colombe) de Cabanes is a small medieval structure. It was undoubtfully a part of the Mas Cabanes, the remains of an ancient home mentioned as early as in the IXth century. This chapel is being renovated at this moment and not yet open to the public.

Tourist Office: Rue Clmenceau, 66740 Saint Gnis des Fontaines
Tl. 0033 (0)4 68 89 84 33 - Fax 0033 (0)4 68 89 66 22

For more information please refer to France Today

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