Prades has almost always been part of my consciousness. My parents had a well-worn record album of Pablo Casals performing at the Pablo Casals Festival of Music. In 1950, Casals created the festival and he played there with some of the finest classical instrumentalists of the time. I knew this because I read the record jacket hundreds of times.
So when we finally went to Prades in 2009, I was in great anticipation of the visit. The site did not disappoint, set as it is in the Pyrénées. We stayed in a a lovely chambres d’hôtes on the outskirts of the small town, the Castel Rose. Elegant and welcoming, it was a perfect base of operations for our four days in the area.
From our room window we could look out at the famous Mont Canigou, home to the ancient Benedictine monastery hidden on its slopes.
The church itself is not particularly exciting, having been rebuilt in the 17th century on its Romanesque foundation. On the western front are some arcades rescued from Saint Michel de Cuxa, but the real glories of the church are its furnishings.
The famous retable was created by the Catalan sculptor Joseph Sunyer. The retable is the largest Baroque altarpiece in France and took almost two years to complete. The completed triptych was finished in 1699. A monumental 12′ tall Saint Peter dominates the central section, clothed in his pontifical vestments and wearing a tiara. The Virgin is enthroned above him, the intermediary between heaven and earth.
Sunyer also created the magnificent retable in the small Eglise Saint Martin d’Odeillo in Odeillo-Font Romeu, home to two magnificent vierges romanes.
There is also a modern black madonna in one of the twelve side chapels of the nave. each with its own elaborate retable. Even though she is not a medieval creation, to me she harkens back to the ancient statues at Dorres and other churches in the region.
PJ also captured a photo of another fine modern addition, the crucifixion sculpture.
And while Prades no longer has a Romanesque church, we can take comfort by knowing that it is surrounded by some of the most pure and beautiful examples of that culture. We return to Prades this spring and will contemplate the slopes of Canigou from the Castel Rose. We shall enjoy a meal on the Place de la Republique, drink our red wine from the porrón and toast Pablo Casals.
Location: 42.618234° 2.423730°