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Free visit - Saint Peter Church

Prades appears in history in 843, we don’t know much about the first settlement of the City. In 843, Prades or in latin “villa Prata” is given by the Carolingian king Charles the bald at the Count of Cerdagne Suniefred. Five years later, Suniefred, for the safety and the salute of its soul decides to endow the Abbey of Lagrasse (in actual French department of Aude) of several donations, including the city of Prades.

This donation is effective until 1589, moment when she passes under Spanish domination and becomes a Spanish royal city. And so on until the moment where Louis XIV annexes the Roussillon in 1659. After the European Thirty years war (1618-1648), Prades becomes a French city. The rupture between the Roussillon and Catalonia does not happen suddenly. It takes time, still today many traditions continue, many cultural exchanges are made between the French department and Catalonia (north of Spain).

Also, in 843, the old church appears; the king gives the city of Prades, its churches and its dependences. The primitive church takes place under the triple protection of Saint John, Saint Rescuer and Saint Peter. Before to becomes on the 12th century the church “Saint Peter of Prades”.

The actual church is from the 17th century, it is built between 1606 and 1686. From the former church there is only a bell tower, from the 12th century, in Romanic style, as well as a part of the south facade.

The inside of the church contrasts with its outside. From austere dark and almost medieval outside we pass in a floodlit and rich inside. Where the baroque style dominates. The architecture of this church seems singular; it’s about a big nave of 55m of length, 13m wide and 17m high, flanked by 14 chapels (what appears to be a lot compare to big abbeys nearby Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa and Saint-Martin-du-Canigou).

The transept seems to be smaller than in conventional churches. The use of the marble is omnipresent here, considered as an expensive and prestigious material. This rare stone is to be found nearby in quarries of pink marble of Villefranche-de-Conflent. For the personal worship, it seems to be a big advantage that the church of Prades possesses many chapels. As we can see many patron saints and saints defenders are represented in the chapels, helping the faithful in their daily life.

Patron Saints of shoemakers and tanners, they use to be a lot in Prades, Saint Crépin and Saint Crépinien.

Patron Saint of farmers; called to bring upon the rain; Saint Gaudérique.

Patron Saint of pupils, also says hurry saint, called to obtain fast results; Saint Expedit.

And finally, called to find lost objects; Saint Antoine of Padoue.

The master piece of this church is the main altarpiece. Pearl of the Spanish baroque art from the 17th century. This impressive work is realizes by the Catalan sculptor, Joseph Sunyer. This altarpiece is today considerate as the biggest baroque altarpiece of France. Built in less than 3 years, between January 1697 and September 1699. Sunyer cames from the Catalan village of Manresa, in Spain. He has been trained by the great masters, like Luis Generes, sculptor of the altar piece of the Trinity here in church of Prades. The work of Sunyer is singular; you could find some of it in churches like Collioure or Vinça. It’s also the last testimony from the Spanish baroque partially disappeared during civil war.

This baroque art (from Portuguese “barroco”), has been born after the catholic Counter-Reformation, which calls on the emotion of the spectator. The greatness, the importance given to drapes and details, could be finding here in the altarpiece of Sunyer.

The apostle Peter is represented into center, dressed in Pope, the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church whom aims to be triumphant of the “Protestant heresy”. Four big scenes represent the life of Saint Peter: the crucifixion, the cure of the lame, the delivery of the keys to the Kingdom to which are added 2 small playlets representing the walking on waters.

The 12 apostles are represented; among us Saint Thomas is at the top of the altarpiece, above the Virgin Mary and God. Certainly punished for his doubt and its scepticism, “I believe only what I see”, also called as patron saint of the architects.

Finally, notice the importance given to details and decorations, all of them in a mountain register type: cocks, vine representation. In Collioure’s church it’s more “maritime” with ship and seaport.

 

C. ROMEIRA


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