The Benedictine Abbey of St Martin de Canigou has held its position on the slopes of Canigou for over ten centuries. Framed by mountain peaks and rich forests, it is a dramatic and wonderful 45 minutes walk from Casteil. Fairly steep but well worth the effort.
Or you can get a 4×4 taxi from Vernet les Bains (04 68 05 55 35)
You are aware it has been a place of worship and meditation for centuries. Religious life continues to this day and one is asked to respect the silence and enjoy the beauty in peace.
In 1428 it was badly damaged by a terrible earthquake and, by 1506, had fallen out of use.
It was slightly restored in the 1600s but, by 1783, the monks had abandoned it.
It wasn’t till 1902 that the Bishop of Perpignan bought the ruins and started the restoration of the abbey that continues to this day.
Of special note are two tombs hewn out of the rock by Count Guifred de Cerdagne, founder of the Abbey. His earthly remains lie in one, in the other those of one of his wives.
It is possible to make your way down through the woods, a path that brings you to the start of a lovely walk up the Gorge of the Cady river. You can walk its length in an hour and a half.
The river bubbles along beside and below you, there are rock pools by which you can picnic and in Autumn the colours of the trees are superb. Both excursions start in Casteil, just 8 kms from Villefranche de Conflent via Vernet les Bains.
Tourist info: 04 68 05 50 03