The village of Saint Betrand de Comminges has a long history dating back to 72BC, when the Roman colony of “Lugdunum Convernarum” was established by Pompey, a Roman General, with a population close to 30,000 people.
The city was destroyed by vandals in 408 AD and again in 585, when it suffered a similar fate, at the hands of Gontrand of Orleans, King of the Franks.
In 1073, Bertrand was nominated to the post of Bishop by Count Raymond IV of Toulouse, his cousin. Ten years later, Bertrand became Bishop in 1083, and in 1218 was canonized, becoming Saint Bertrand.
In 1083, Bishop Bertrand ordered that the Cathedral of the Pyrenees with its Romanesque cloisters be built upon a steep hill, some 1700 feet high. This fine cathedral would dominate the valley, located between the Pyrenean peaks.
As one enters the cathedral, located on the outer left wall, a relic, a crocodile to ward off evil spirits, brought back from the Holy Land by a pilgrim.
Three men through history are responsible for the construction of this fine cathedral, which dominates the valley:
12th century – St.Bertrand de I’Isle
14th century – Bertrand de Got; Pope Clement V
16th century – Jean de Mauleon
The first phase of the construction: The porch, displays twelve apostles, surmounted by the Adoration of the Magi, presenting gifts to the Virgin Mary, with an image of Bertrand in the background.
Numerous pillars depict the Green Men. Columns are decorated with foliage, plants and leaves similar in design, to those found in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Rosslyn has three enigmatic pillars, whilst here we have two enormous pillars, with a circumference of 11.45 metres.
On the cathedral’s south wall, the cloisters are located, open to the Pyrenees, a place of prayer for the monks.
The second phase of the construction: Bertrand de Got was Bishop of Comminges from 1295-1299 and in 1304 Archbishop of Bordeaux. In 1305 elected to the post of Pope Clement V. Bertrand de Got, was the first in a line of pope’s through history, to be crowned with a papal tiara. A stone from the Pope’s tiara was lost, as he himself stumbled, as a wall collapsed during the parade, killing some bystanders.
In 1307 he sided with King Philip IV of France, calling for the arrest of the Knight’s Templar, and in 1312 officially abolished the order in Vienne. In 1314 Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knight’s Templar was burnt at the stake on charges of heresy in Paris. Molay vowed his accusers would follow him to their death, within a year.
Bertrand de Got’s proposed extension and gothic embellishments to the cathedral were completed by 1350, under the guide of Hugues de Castillon.
The mother of Pope Clement V was Ida de Blanchefort, related to Bertrand de Blanchefort. Grand Master of the Knight’s Templar 1156-1169. Who would have believed that a grand master descendant, would abolish the Knight’s Templar.
Any secrets found in St.Bertrand de Comminges, would only be known to Pope Clement V, as he had served in the cathedral.
Bertrand de Got, became Pope Clement V. In 1306, the Chateau de Duras, was taken over by the de Got family. Pope Clement’s nephew was Bertrand de Got, and he was partly responsible in over seeing the expansion of the chateau into a fortress; 3,000 square metres in size with eight round towers.
It is said, it had been built to defend the valley and its food production. On the other hand, did the fortress have something of considerable value hidden within… the money came from the Knight’s Templar, so could there be a link to the Holy Land relics?
In 1430, Bishop Pierre de Foix, built a grand mausoleum for relics of Saint Bertrand.
The third phase of the construction: Located within the cathedral, the 16th century choir stalls, known as a wooden church within a stone church made from oak and walnut, of Renaissance style and inaugurated for Christmas 1535. A series of sixty-six stalls, depict characters from the bible, the brainchild of Jean de Mauleon.