This is a photo of the magnificent pilgrimage basilica of Conques in the middle of the Aveyron, taken on the day of the festival of Sainte Foy. We happened into the town on October 5, the day before the feast day and discovered that our hotel reservation had been mislaid. The town was full of pilgrims and we had little chance of finding a hotel room. We encountered completely by accident a kind Japanese couple who we had met in Saint Gervazy (about 165 kilometers away in the Puy-de-Dôme when we were shooting the Black Madonna in the church there. They were in Conques for the festival and knew people at the Chamber of Commerce. Through their good offices, we managed to get the last hotel room in town.
After dinner, we saw the crowds gathering in the church square before the west facade of the church. The reliquary that contains the remains of the third century martyr to the Roman persecutions of Diocletian was brought out from the Treasury and brought to the square.
On that eve of Sainte Foy’s feast day, the reliquary was carried on the shoulders of several men and escorted by all the townspeople and pilgrims in a candlelit procession that wound through the town and ended up and the Basilica for High Mass. The photograph below was taken as the worshippers filed into the church
We saw people at their most inspiring and moving during this Festival of Sainte Foy, and signs of a vibrant and dynamic Catholic faith. A celebration that has endured for a thousand years proved as valid today as in the millennium during which it originated.