Shot during one of my French workshops, in which a couple of the participants can be glimpsed taking a well earned coffee break in the little cafe…

A stage on one of the pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, the village with its medieval abbey boasts double accolades as a Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Guilhem, was a French knight born sometime in the late 8th century and grandson of one of the Emperor Charlemagne’s chosen knights. A devout Christian, renowned as one of the most valiant warriors of his time, he fought bravely against the Saracens (Muslims) of Spain and dedicated some years to sustaining the southern frontiers of the Frankish empire. He married twice; his second wife, the Lady of Orange was apparently the widow of a Saracen Lord that he killed and whose estates he seized – land, riches and a wife – he certainly didn’t do things by halves!

In 806 he headed a group of monks who set off to found the Abbey of Gellone (now Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert) after Charlemagne gave the young Guilhem a reliquary, believed to contained pieces of the True Cross that he left to his Abbey, where it remains to this day.

And on a 21st century note: according to the book “Holy Blood Holy Grail” Guilhem was the son of “Theodoric, king of the Jews of Septimania” crowned in 768. Through him the bloodline of Jesus became the bloodline of Frankish royalty, a fantasy was later incorporated into the plot of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”.

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