Ever since I happened upon Moissac and discovered it was a stopping place for pilgrims on the Route of Santiago de Compostela or the Way of St James, the route as a whole has interested me and prompted me to find out more.
The Way isn't any single road, it is a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the north west of Spain and can be made up of many different routes. To my great surprise I've discovered that one of the branches runs very close to where we stay in France, and that one of the stopping places is Déols.
Up until this point I had always looked upon Déols as a village that had gradually evolved into a suburb of the capital of our département, Châteauroux, the ugliest town in France (Jean Giraudoux: "Châteauroux, ville la plus laide de France"). But it seems it has a long history dating from the 10th century and was once the most important town in the lower Berry region.
In 917 a Benedictine abbey was founded by the Lord of Déols and then was headed by Abbots of Cluny, the leading and probably wealthiest monastic house of the time. If you ever have the chance of going to the wonderful Cluny Museum in Paris, you will see many of the things that provided that wealth. By the by, this would be a particularly good year to visit because it is the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the Abbey of Cluny.
Sadly, in spite of this wealth all that remains of the abbey today are ruins.
The first thing you see is the bell tower which makes you think it's more complete than it is, but this is the largest section.
Little else remains but here and there more excavations and restorations are revealing sections of wall, carvings and doorways.
They are doing their best to make the most of what does remain, showing it off to good effect.
A small rose garden leading into a park.
Some window frames put to a new use.
This following picture is a representation of how the abbey might once have appeared, really very extensive.
The picture comes from the site of the Tourist Office in Déols where there is more information if you can translate the Franglais.
The abbey was burned by the Huguenots in 1568 during the religious wars, and was secularised in 1627 by the Prince of Condé because of the corruption of the monks. The stones were removed and redistributed for use in other buildings. Having served as a quarry, the choir of the abbey is crossed by the road of Issoudun in 1812 and the Chapel of Miracles was demolished in 1831. The Chapel of Miracles which survived that time, was demolished to allow a road to be built.
At least now the importance of the site has been recognised and with luck improved still further. Historians are continuing to study and reassemble.
More pictures including those above.