Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

Rennes-le-Château and Rennes-les-Bains

Couiza Church

The Church at Couiza

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  The church door and the view from above.

This most interesting church began its life in the 5th century as a monastery on slightly higher ground with the Aude to the west and the Sals to the north.  It was probably traffic to it and houses built around it that formed the core of today's old village in Couiza.  It would have been Visigothic and Arian, for the Visigoths, it is known, founded nearby Rennes-le-Chateau around 414AD.

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   The church is dedicated to St. Jean Baptiste, whose Pascal lamb, by his feet, also appears on the town's official crest.  The other stature shows Joseph with the baby Jesus, a precocious infant, already king of the world!  The backgrounds are real; most of the walls in the church are decorated in this pattern, except where the patterns are even more elaborate!  The ceiling is bright blue.

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  The altar is conventionally at the east end of the church, and they have added a modern stained glass window.  There is also an image which looks like the Holy Grail, but believe me, it is really a representation of the Eucharist (the wafer and the wine) which is common in Catholic churches.


  Reconstruction of this church began in 1855 and was finally finished with the bells being installed in the tower in 1913.  What is interesting to many, is that items were supplied by Giscard in Toulouse, who also supplied those for the church at Rennes-le-Château.  The stations of the cross are from the same moulds, but painted only in silver and not colours.

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  On the war memorial Giscard has signed his name.

  There is a grill on the right-hand-side of the church, barely visible, and behind it is a Madonna and child, dressed in gold.

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  Otherwise the church is quite conventional, but do go and see it if you can.  I was lucky in that every time I went there it was open, friends tell me they have never been able to find who has the key, but the neighbours will tell you about the "Amis" of the church.  Or you can ask in the Tourist Office on the road to Rennes-les-Bains.  Meanwhile, a selection of saints for your delight.

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  Our lady of Lourdes, Ste Germain in gold and silver, which is rare, and a grim St. Michael, banishing the dragon of evil.

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The church, around the corner from the rue Sainte Marie, is dedicated to Saint Jean Baptiste, who also appears above the doorway to the café St. Anne!  Every 24th June, Jean Baptiste day, the village holds a great fête with firecrackers.  The church refuses to join in this fête saying it is pagan.  Well, it is.  It is midsummer, the Celtic fête of fire and water combined.

  Saints everywhere - that's France for you.

  The church in Couiza is open on weekdays between 10 and noon.  But if they are not, go and tell the Tourist Office and they will find someone to open up for you.

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