As French villages go, they don’t get much smaller than Prunet-et-Belpuig, which tops out with a population of 59. As the name indicates, the town is a combination of two adjacent villages; Prunet appears in a text from 869 as Prunetus, from the latin pruna, meaning “plum”. Belpuig is a Catalan word for “beautiful hill” and probably refers to the eminence on which a 12th century castle was built.
In the Belpuig portion of the village is a small church, the Chapelle de la Trinité, originally known as San Pere de la Serra, Serra meaning “mountain” in Catalan. In the 17th century the church was renamed the Chapelle de la Trinité. This church is unique for Via Lucis because, while its form is pure 11th century Romanesque, we came for the remarkable collection of medieval artifacts housed inside.
The church has a simple rectangular exterior made of shale and sandstone with a small chevet decorated with Lombard bands and two windows surmounted by a round stone arch. There are no transepts.
The interior features a barrel-vaulted nave featuring a fine Retable de la Trinité (1698 but recently restored).
There is also a single side aisle to the south covered with a half-barrel vault. This side aisle runs the entire length of the nave and apse. At the end of the side aisle is the finest treasure of the church, the magnificent Romanesque crucifix from the 12th century.
In the 17th century, the crucifix was subjected unfortunately to an “abusive” restoration when it was painted and gilded, but was recently restored to its original condition. The life-sized Christ on the cross is known as the Santa Majestat.
There are several unique features of this work – Christ wears a sleeved tunic, has open eyes, and no crown of thorns. This would seem to indicate that this crucifix was not about the suffering Christ but the triumphant Christ. The Santa Majestat is one of the finest works of Romanesque art in a region rich with them.
There is an unusual 14th century crucifix in the nave just to the left of the Retable de la Trinité (it can be seen in the photograph of the nave above). This is a stylized wooden cross painted on both sides which was originally the property of the church in Prunet. This image is clearly an example of Christ suffering on the cross.
It seems that no self-respecting Romanesque church in the Pyrénées is without a vierge romane, and Chapelle de la Trinité is no exception. The side aisle features the beautiful 14th century Vierge de Prunet.
The main door of the church has spectacular metal fittings. Some people think of these fittings as decoration, but there is a fundamental structural purpose. This is the original Romanesque door and is composed of three thicknesses of wood, the first laid vertically, the second horizontal, and the third vertical again, exactly like plywood. The fittings actually hold the three layers together, especially since the medieval glue has lost its effectiveness.
After World War II, a Dutch priest from Perpignan settled in the chapel and made it a place of meditation and contemplation. He lived there for over 50 years until 1998. As a side note, the other part of the village, Prunet, has its own Romanesque church – the Église Saint Etienne. We didn’t photograph there during our trip to the region, so we have another reason to return to this fertile area of exploration.
Location: 42.562406° 2.625663°