Perched on a hill at the base of the Pyrenees mountains in southern France, Saint Bertrand de Comminges appears from the ground as a gateway to the heavens. It takes only a few moments after passing through one of the village’s three gates to understand why St Bertrand de Comminges is listed amongst the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The Most Beautiful Villages of France”).
For us, the charming medieval village of Saint Bertrand de Comminges was a stop as we drove from Lourdes to Toulouse in France. In the past, it was a pilgrim stopover on one of the paths to Santiago de Compostela.
There are two key sights to see here: the Roman ruins of Lugdunum Convenarum at ground level, and the village of Saint Bertrand de Comminges upon the hill.
Even on a cloudy day, the area is beautiful.
Roman ruins of Lugdunum Convenarum
At the base of the hill leading to Saint Bertrand de Comminges, we stopped to examine some of the remains of the ancient Gallo-Roman city of Lugdunum Convenarum which once extended over the territory of several municipalities. This Roman city was founded in 72 BC and its ruins were discovered in 1913.
Saint Bertrand de Comminges
A shuttle takes people up and down the hill for a nominal fee. The driver was on his lunch break when we arrived, so we walked. On a cooler day, it would have been a lovely walk with a gentle upward slope. Steps aid in the steeper parts, thus creating a relatively easy walk. We opted to take the tram back down after our visit.
The medieval and half-timbered 15th and 16th century houses are a reminder that this was a wealthy town as well as a pilgrimage centre.
Cathedral of Sainte Marie of Saint Bertrand de Comminges
The romanesque-gothic architecture of the 11th – 12th century Cathedral of Sainte Marie dominates the town’s picturesque skyline. Inside the cathedral we find renaissance stained glass windows, hand-carved choir stalls, the tomb of Bishop Bertrand de l’Isle who was canonised in 1671, a 16th-century organ, a peaceful romanesque cloister, and a seemingly out of place taxidermied crocodile hanging on the wall.
The cathedral is home to the former seat of the ancient Diocese of Comminges.
Olivetains (information centre)
The former monastery of Saint Bertrand de Comminges is now the local tourist centre providing traveller information, guided tours, a bookshop, and interesting artefacts from the region including a 6th-century stone altar table.
Getting to Saint Bertrand de Comminges
- Self-driving is definitely the easiest way to get to Saint Bertrand de Comminges. We had a car as part of our home exchange agreement. We swapped both house and car with a family in northern Spain. If we hadn’t made this deal, we would have rented a car with RentalCars.com. A conglomerator, we have rented with them all around the world successfully.
- If you are travelling Europe by Eurail, there is a local train from Toulouse that will get you near Saint Bertrand, and then you will need to take a taxi or walk. Check prices and find the Eurail pass that is right for you.
Where to stay
- There is no shortage of places to stay in the Midi-Pyrenees region. Booking.com offers over 4000 accommodation options covering the full gambit of hospitality, however, only one is in Saint Bertrand de Comminges. We visited as a half-day trip staying the night before in Lourdes and the night of our visit in Toulouse. We spent only a few hours between the two sites, and that included our walk up the hill.
Saint Bertrand de Comminges was one of the many stops we made during our Pyrenees mountain road trip.
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We originally discovered this town in the Lonely Planet Western Europe travel guide.