The cloister

A romanesque treasure

The cloister of St. Pierre Abbey in Moissac, finished in 1100, is a unique and perfectly preserved treasure of Romanesque art.

Its galleries are bordered by columns with sumptuously sculpted capitals, which can also be found throughout the chapter house, the St. Marthe and St. Ferréol chapels, the scriptorium and the warming house (chauffoir), today converted into exposition spaces. In this place of passage and meditation, you can visit in contemplation, read the stories of the capitals, admire the corner pillars and discover the principles of the monastic life.

The diversity and finesse of its sculptures is the reason for the cloister’s renown. The 76 capitals reveal a studied style and an exceptional care in composition. Stories from the Bible are decorated with vegetal or floral motifs; they are the work of an atelier that some historians believe is the same as that which produced the sculptures of Saint-Sernin basilica in Toulouse. This expertise has become the standard by which southern Romanesque sculpture is compared.

At the corners of the gallery the pillars support finely sculpted marble plaques, contemporaries of the capitals. They represent the apostles, Saint Peter, Saint Paul....and Saint James. Saint James the Great undoubtedly because Moissac is an historic stop on the Road to Santiago de Compostela.

These sculptures constitute a privileged tool for the study and analysis of the iconographic and imaginary universe of the 11th century. The aesthetic encountered on the capitals of the cloister is a corollary with that of the illuminated manuscripts produced in the abbey’s scriptorium. The monks ceaselessly evolved in this spiritual universe, turned towards God and dedicated themselves to the study of sacred texts.

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