DAY 1 MADRID – FIGUERAS – FONTFROIDE – NARBONNE Meet at the agreed upon time in Atocha Railway Station to leave on the AVE for Figueras with with an expected arrival time of approximately 12:30 P.M. Once in Figueras we will take a luxury coach to begin our Marian journey. Lunch en route. On the way to Narbonne, we will make a stop at Fontfroide Abbey, which was the birthplace of the sermons and center of the crusades against the Cathars. Founded as benedictine in the 11th century by the Viscount of Narbonne and affiliated with the Cistercians in 1145, the cloister is from the 13th century while the church is from the 12th. The following are prominent in its architecture: the courtyard and the building of the Legos brothers, the Patio of Louis XIV, the cloister with its lovely galleries, the Abbatial Church and its beautiful rose garden with more than 2500 examples. After this excursion we will take the coach again to go to Narbonne. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 2 NARBONNE – MONTPELIER Breakfast. In the morning we will visit the city of Narbonne, and later we will leave for Mountpellier, a place where Saint Dominicse met with the papal legates. There we will have lunch. We will visit this striking city in the south of France. Considered one of the cities with the most cultural movement in the country, it combines ancient monuments with a very striking modern architecture. As opposed to many other cities in the south of France, it does not have a Roman origina, but rather was founded in the 7th century (during the Middle Ages). Up until the 10th century it was not of much importance, until it became a commercial center for the Counts of Toulouse. There are many noteworthy points of interest to visit. The Faculty of Medicine is the oldest active faculty in the world. It has existed in practice since the 11th century, although received its first institutional setting in the year 1220. Today it belongs to the University of Montpellier, called l’Université Montpellier I. In its bossom illustrious figures such as Nostradamus, François Rabelais, Arnau de Vilanova, Ramon Llull, Guy de Chauliac or Guillaume Rondelet studied. The Cathedral of Saint Peter, from the 14th century, is caracterized chiefly by its unusual portico. The Aqueduct of Saint Clement, from the 15th century, with a length of 880 meters and with two orders of arches. It passes through the neighborhood of Les Arceaux and and used to carry water from the fountain of San Clemente to the city, which was 14 km away. The aqueduct flowed into a large tank situated near the Arc de Triompfe, from where the water was redistributed to the city fountains and the public laundries. Afternoon free. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 3 MONTPELLIER – NÎMES – AVIGNON – MONTPELLIER Breakfast. Departure in coach to take a city tour of Nîmes. Famous for the multitude of remains from the Roman period that are conserved in relatively good state, among them are prominent the amphitheater (the Arena de Nîmes), where they still celebrate shows –fundamentally taurine-, and the Maison Carrée, ancient Roman temple and currently site of a 3D show about historical people from Nîmes. Both constructions date from the 1st century and are found in the city center. In its surroundings are found the Magna Tower and the Guard Bridge (one of the most famous Roman aqueducts), constructed by Agrippa. The Cathedral of Saint Castor (whose construction began in the 11th century), as well as several archaeology museums, and the Jardins de la Fontaine (Gardens de the Fountain) from the 18th century are also noteworthy. After this excursion we will continue to Avignon where we will have lunch and tour of the city, which was Papal Residence in 1309 -when the city found itself under the government of the kings of Sicily and belonging to the House of Anjou-. Avignon is not only an administrative center, but also a first rate artistic and cultural showcase. The town was declared World Heritage Site in 1995. The Papal Palace stands out as an architechtural work that must be visited. It is the largest Gothic construction from the Middle Ages and its walls are more than 5 meters thick. The walls of the city, in a very good state of conservation, were constructed by the popes in the 15th century. They still surround Avignon and are one of the best surviving examples of medievale fortifications. Among the lesser churches of the city are San Pedro, with a gracious façade and richly carved Gothic doors, San Didier, and San Agricol (both Gothic). Transfer to Montpellier. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 4 MONTPELLIER– ALBI – TOULOUSE Breakfast. Departure for Albi (through the regional Natural Park“Des Grands Cousses”), city of great importance due to the surrounding environment and its close ties with the Cathars. There we will take a tour of a city and have Lunch. It is a city of Roman origin, situated on the banks of the Tarn River whose clay was the raw material to elaborate the red bricks that characterize its local architecture, whether it be in its Cathedral, in its houses, bridges, palaces or windmills. From among its principal monuments stand out the Cathedral Saint Cecilia, built in brick (red). Its construction was begun in 1282, extending for the period of two centuries. Also noteworthy is the Old Bridge, one of the the oldest in France, and still in use. Next to the Cathedral is found Berbie Palace, old episcopal palace and actual seat of the Museum Toulouse-Lautrec. After the tour of this city we will take the bus to continue with our journey to Toulousse with planned stop in Lavaur, French commune in the departamento of the Tarn in the region of Midi-Pyrénées. In 1211 it was the scene of one of the bloodiest episodes of the Albigensian Crusade. Its most significant monument is the Cathedral of Saint-Alain from the 13th century. Transfer to Toulouse. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 5 TOULOUSE – PAMIERS – FOIX – TOULOUSE Breakfast. In the morning we will take a tour of a city of Toulouse, place where the order and the home of the first dominican friars were born. It was conquered by the Romans between 120 and 100 B.C. and given the name of Toulouse. It was the capital of the kingdom of the Visogoths in the 5th century, later of the Frankish kingdom of Aquitaine, and in the 9th century of the County of Toulouse. We will see the Cathedral of Saint Sernin, one of the largest Romanesque basilicas in Western Europe and the most important nucleus in pilgrimage of St. James’ Way, and the Church of the Jacobins, in which the majestic 22 m tall vault stands out; the Church was constructed in four stages, starting in 1230 and prolonged over the 13th and 14th centuries. Lunch. Departure in coach for Pamiers, where we will see Saint Antonin, built in the 12th century, of which nothing remains other than the main portico and part of the fortified bell tower and whose organ dates from the 18th century. Then we will resume the journey heading toward Foix, city in which the monumental Gothic church is prominent. Dedicated to San Volusiano, its apse is practically situated on the banks of the River Ariege. Transfer to Toulouse. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 6 TOULOUSE – FANJEAUX – PROUILHE – SAINT HILARE – CARCASSONE Breakfast. Departure for Fanjeaux, where Saint Dominic was parish priest and strategic center of his sermons to the Cathars. Of this lovely Cathar city, we can admire various constructions, like the House of Saint Dominic, where he lived from the year 1207 to 1215. Although very reformed, it was part of the Fanjeaux Castle, built next to the Church of the Assumption. There is also a niche with a Gothic arch where Saint Dominic is represented in a beautiful mosaic, and there is a Teutonic discoidal stone cross with the hand of God carved in its center. Lunch en route and tour of the Prouilhe Monastery, birthplace of the first dominican nuns. We will resume the trip in the coach to leave for Saint Hilare (via Limoux) and visit the famous Benedictine abbey, founded at the end of the 7th century at the behest of The Counts of Carcasonne in honor of the first Bishop of Carcasonne (San Hilary). The monastery was prosperous until the 12th century, but the devastations caused by the the Hundred Years War, the Black Plague and the periods of famine impinged negatively on it and propitiated its fall. However, the traditional wine production of the region and Abbey led to, in 1531, the monks of Saint-Hilaire discovering the first effervescent wine in the world: the blanquette de Limoux. Transfer to Carcassone. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 7 CARCASSONE – CAUNES MINERVOIS – CARCASSONE Breakfast. Tour of the beautiful city of Carcassone, famous for its walled citadel and because it was one of the places where Saint Dominic preached . It is Medieval archtectural historic grouping restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 20th century and declared World Heritage Site in 1997. We will see the Cathedral, built in the 13th century in Gothic style by order of Saint Louis of France in the bastida Seat of the bishopric of Carcasonne and the Condal Castle; built over a domus of the 1st century, it was the fortress that harbored the Viscounts of Carcasonne. Constructed at the beginning of the 11th century, it suffered various later modifications, e.g. in the of the year 1229, by order of the kingdom of France, it was converted into seneschalship. From 1240 to 1250, an important job to strengthen the wall was carried out, incorporating more round towers, the barbican brought out to the entrance gate and the moat. Lunch. In the afternoon we will take an excursion to Caunes Minervois. It is a French commune and an old fortified town from the Middle Ages known for its marble mines, where we will see Saint Peter and Saint Paul Abbey, Benedictine Romanesque origin from the 8th century. The oldest part, the choir, dates from the beginning of the 10th century. The Remainder of the Abbey was constructed gradually until 1770, year when the vault that covers it was constructed. Transfer to Carcassone. Dinner and lodging.
DAY 8 CARCASSONE – LAGRASSE – VILLEROUGE – FIGUERAS Breakfast. Departure for Lagrasse, where we will see its famous Abbey (whose Legend affirms that it was founded by Charlemagne) considered one of the oldest in Europe, founded in the 7th century by the Abbott of Narbonne. Lunch en route and continuation of the trip to Villerouge, where we will visit the Castle de Villerouge (12th century). Transfer to Figueras, where we will take the AVE to return to Madrid. Arrival and END OF TRIP