THE CONFLENT area is proud of its exceptional natural asset, the Mount Canigó – sacred mountain of the Catalans – that considered a ‘Grand Site De France’ and a ‘Natura 2000’ site. It soars to an altitude of 2,784 m (over 9,100 feet). The extraordinary Canalettes Grottos also illustrate what nature can unveil. From Prades to Villefranche de Conflent, via Codalet and Casteil, the rich historical heritage cries out to be visited.
Prades - Patrimoine culturel majeur et festivals internationaux
A mild, sunny climate with the majestic Canigó mountain as a back-drop make Prades particularly appealing to both locals and tourists alike. The first written mention of the town was in 843 AD. It remained under the protection of the Lagrasse Abbey in the Aude, and then the Kingdom of Spain, until the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The exceptional Saint Pierre church with its 14 chapels were built between 1606 and 1696. The key piece is one of the largest Baroque reredoses in France (1699) made by Joseph Sunyer. In 1773, the town was the ‘viguerie’ of the Conflent – a medieval administrative court – and the town developed around the growth of the local economy. The arrival of the railways in 1877 facilitated the urbanisation of Prades – for example, the construction of the manor house belonging to the Pams family, which eventually became the Town Hall. In 1936, the cellist Pablo Casals fled the Spanish regime and found refuge in Prades. In 1950 he started an international festival that still bears his name today.
VISIT the historical town centre and its numerous idiosyncratic features.
DISCOVER garnets – locally-made jewels made from this stone in a traditional, ancestral way.
Vernet-les-Bains - Séjours thermaux et visites culturelles
Until 1783 it was attached to the Casteil Abbey. There is a castle and a 12th century Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Saturnin. From the 19th century, Vernet-les-Bains became a thermal resort, well favoured by celebrities. Its flourishing economy, during the Belle Epoque (1870-1914), enabled the town to grow with some beautiful large houses which just add to its charm. Today it is nicknamed the ‘Village Arboretum’ as there are over 2,000 trees from 320 different species, to be discovered when strolling through the town.
VISIT the Natural History Museum.
Codalet - Terre de l’Abbaye de Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, monument majeur en Catalogne
The Saint Michel De Cuixa Abbey is an exceptional construction, impressive by virtue of its age and its fine sculptures. Building started in 956AD and it was finally consecrated in 974AD – the largest Pre-Romanesque church in France. The 12th century marble cloister is Romanesque and is noted for its mainly symbolic motifs. The Pablo Casals Festival and the special Romanesque Days try to recapture this atmosphere. The abbey is considered to be a major historical and cultural site.
LOOK AT the village church, dedicated to Saint Felix and referred to in writings in 865AD.
Casteil - Lieu d’intérêt incontournable de l’art roman
The village was built around the Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Martin le Vieux, rebuilt in the 20th century. The Saint Martin Du Canigou Abbey, consecrated in 1009, gave Casteil all its power for centuries. Today this abbey is a must-see visit and is recognised as a work of art dating back to the first Romanesque art.
DISCOVER TOO : the animal park.
Villefranche-de-Conflent - Visite culturelle et historique inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO
Dating from 1090, the town commenced life protected by a defensive perimeter wall. In the 13th century 8 towers were added to the angles then 6 bastions in the 17th century by Vauban. The medieval village rested safe within these imposing fortifications and has retained all its atmosphere since that time. It has been classified as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’ and has featured amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008.
LOOK AT the 12th century Saint Jacques church, enlarged and subsequently modified by Vauban in the 17th century.
VISIT the picturesque streets and discover the local cottage-industries, as well as Fort Liberia and the Canalettes Grottos... nature at its most sublime.