House with statue of Michealango' DavidView of Mas Cabardes from the calvaryLong distance view of Mas CabardesMas Cabardes octagonal church tower
Mas Cabardes - Aude

Church of St Etienne (Stephen) 

The church of Saint Etienne<> is probably constructed on the site of an ancient Benedictine monastery known as St Etienne de Cabaret’, and mentioned in documents from the first half of the 9th century.  Nothing remains today, except the name of one of the neighbouring properties, ‘la Claustre’ – the Cloisters.

 The current edifice dates from the late Gothic period.  A date is cut into the left hand pillar of the triumphal arch: 1548.  This doubtless refers to the year in with the apse in flamboyant style was completed.

Certain architectural features to be seen in the nave or on the exterior of the church could date from the 16th century such as the set-in columns or carved stones re-used from the original construction. 

The lack of symmetry of the apse is noteworthy.  The chancel occupies only two thirds of the width, the other third being occupied by the belltower and Chapel of Notre Dame de la Barthe. 

1.       16th Century Chancel:  Flamboyant windows, renaissance style sacristy door (unfortunately hidden).  The vaulted ceiling is of seven radiating ribs, leading down to corbeils sculpted with figures – a skull devouring a toad, an angel holding heraldic blazon, a figure of our Lord, a lady, a warrior, a monster  The two pillars of the arch are also sculpted, on the left two angels bearing a book, on the right a sort of crocodile.

2.       The ground floor of the bell-tower is the chapel of Notre Dame de la Barthe.  The statue dates from the late fifteenth century, and the altar-piece from the sixteenth century, possibly with later additions.  The vault with its five junctures is remarkable.  The ribs lead down to carved brackets (a bearded man, a madman, a monk, an angel).

3.       To the left of the church, there are nterlinked columns with carvel capitals.  That of the Chapel of St Antoine  (Anthony) (cherubim carrying the saint’s insignia) could date from the sixteenth century.  The column nearer the back of the church, with a capital carved on each of its three visible faces is certainly older – fifteenth century.

4.       The tombstone of Raymond Baron, priest, who died on 3 August 1311 has been moved from its original location beside the entrance to the church.  The eoptaph written by Raymond Grassi, prior to Mas (Mas means manor farm) reads ‘What you are I was, What I am, you will be, Therefore say an Our Father for my soul’.

5.       At the back a carved stone found in the cellar of the old presbytery.  Its motif is hard to interpret, but appears to be a figure carrying a pilgrim’s staff, and surrounded by angels (XVI or XVIIth century).

6.       At the back of the church also a painting by an unknown artist depicting the stoning of St. Etienne.

7.       The doorway, basket handle shaped (Romanesque) dates from the sixteenth century.  Note the studded door panels.  The three exterior brackets above the doorway, which are probably from the fifteenth century, are almost certainly stones from the original church on that site.

8.       The earlier altar is now in the chapel of St Roch to the right of the chancel, and is made of Caunes marble.  There is a beautiful tabernacle in carved and guilded wood (XVIIIth century).

 

 

 

 

Items linked with the history of the church

 

  • Place called ‘la Claustro’ (the cloister) indicates the presence of the monks who founded the site.  There is a garden to be found on the edge of the site, on the right, beside the track, on the cemetery side.

 

  • The Weavers’ Cross, 16th century, which is found on a corner as you descend into the village, indicating the type of local activity which went on, and linking to the manufacturing centre of Mazamet.

 

St Stephen

 

St Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew, newly converted to Christianity.  It was possibly shortly after the resurrection, in Jerusalem, when the apostles were having difficulty in dealing with the aftermath and with all the followers, in particular with the many Greek-speaking new arrivals.  They chose seven men of acknowledged virtue, who were invested with the Holy Spirit to be Deacons.  St Stephen was one of these.

 

He was remarkable both in his youth and in the radiance of his faith.

 

One day, while announcing the Gospel of Christianity, a dispute arose with those who wanted to maintain the worship of God within the Temple and to ensure adherence to the Laws of Moses.  St Stephen was taken out of the town and stoned to death.  He died kneeling in pray of forgiveness for those who maltreated him, while contemplating the vision of Jesus seated at God’s right hand.