Église abbatiale de l'Assomption, Saint-Hilaire, Saint-Hilaire, Aude, France 0 Reviews
For Pope Clement VI, a humble tomb simply wouldn’t do. The pope commissioned a palatial church to shelter his final resting place and the resulting Église Abbatiale, completed in 1352, is an imposing sight: two square towers crown its restrained Gothic façade, behind which a cavernous interior, framed by 18m-high rib vaults, harbours treasures including the massive 17th-century organ (a focal point of the town’s Sacred Music Festival) and Clement VI’s marble tomb. Don’t miss the celebrated Danse Macabre fresco.
The blood-red fresco, painstakingly restored in recent years as part of a €23m renovation over a period of eight years, shows different members of 14th-century society tormented by Death, who is represented as a succession of dancing skeletons.
Behind the church is the Salle de l’Echo – an architectural oddity that allows people on opposite sides of the chamber to hear each other talking, without being overheard by those in between. It’s thought to have been built to enable monks to hear lepers’ confessions without contracting the dreaded disease.
Access is restricted during the Sacred Music Festival; if you’re visiting in mid-August, plan ahead and buy a ticket to an event in the church.