MOISSAC

The abbey church

Testimony to the power of Moissac abbey

The first impression given by St. Pierre church is one of grandiosity. The majestic edifice is comprised of bell-tower surmounting a porch (clocher-porch) with a fortified appearance and a church, revealing different periods of construction.

 

The Romanesque portal, finely sculpted and ornamented with a tympanum from 1120, was featured in the film In the Name of the Rose based on the novel by Umberto Eco. The sculpted figures, such as the prophet Jeremiah, are executed with a striking emotion.

The bell-tower, with its fortified air, consists of two levels. On the ground level the narthex was a place to gather before entering the abbey church. This vaulted space rests upon solid columns with sculpted capitals. The upper room, the chapel of Saint Michael, is accessible from the cloister. It presents us with astonishing architecture. A square with 12 openings symbolises the Celestial Jerusalem. It was undoubtedly intended to be used for private ceremonies.





The church, consecrated in 1063 by Pope Urban II, was modified during the Gothic period. It is typical of the Gothic style in the Languedoc. The openings of the Gothic arches allow more light into the edifice.

Today interior of the church is resplendent with its painted walls restored to as they were in the 15th century. The Renaissance furniture (retable, chancel) are still in place and the groups of gilded statues from the 15th century, remarkably preserved, present the Entombment of Christ or the Flight into Egypt. The church also preserves a Romanesque Christ on a cross with a vegetal motif (croix arborescente), dating from the 12th century.

The abbey church, designated a parish church after the Revolution, was spared from being sold off as state property. It offers a wide range of artistic production--from Carolingian times, with the vestiges of the altar of the first church visible beneath the current altar--to the 1970’s, with a stained-glass window created by Marc Chagall. This stained-glass window representing an interpretation of the Revelation illuminates the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.