Cuxa, Abbey of

views updated


Former benedictine monastery; present-day Cistercian monastery, in the Pyrenees at Prades, Pyrénées-Orientales, France; Diocese of Perpignan, former Diocese of Elne, France (Latin, Cuxanense, de Coxano ). This monastery, originally dedicated to St. Germanus and later to St. Michael (953), grew out of the modest monastery of Saint-André d'Exalada, known to have existed in 840841 and enlarged in 845 by the arrival of rich clerks from the Diocese of Urgel (Catalonia). Emperor Charles the Bald (871) granted the abbey exemption and allowed the monks free election of their superiors. In 878 a landslide destroyed the Exalada buildings, and Abbot Protase (one of the Urgel priests) transferred the monks to the church of Saint-Germain in Cuxa, thanks to the largesse of the local Count Myron and his son, Seniofred. In the 10th century Pope agapetus ii (950) and the Carolingian kings confirmed the privileges of the monastery, which by then controlled 22 parishes and had holdings in the Conflent, Roussillon, and Cerdagne. Abbot Guarinus (962997), a friend of Gerbert (the future Pope sylves ter ii), introduced the cluniac reform, and under him Cuxa attained its apogee. In Rome he obtained the relics of St. valentine. From Jerusalem he brought back the alleged manger in which Christ was laid, whence Cuxa's name, Monasterium praesepii Domini. Doge Peter Orseolo of Venice returned with him to become a novice at Cuxa (the Prades church preserves his body), as did the hermits, Marinus and romuald, who lived in the forest near Cuxa for seven years; later Romuald founded ca maldoli in Italy. Guarinus built the new church of St. Michael, consecrated Sept. 28, 974. He was succeeded by Guasfred (9971008), the son of Count Seniofred, and then by Oliba (100846), who was simultaneously abbot of Cuxa and ripoll and bishop of Vich. As abbot he extended Cuxa's holdings, developed the scriptorium, obtained a confirmation of the rights and possessions of the monastery from Pope sergius iv, and added two bell towers to the abbey church. The immense holdings of Cuxa excited the greed of the noble families who provided the abbots after the late 11th century, while a series of grave crises shook the abbey. In 1203 the pope deposed Abbot Arnold for squandering the goods of the abbey; twice Cuxa was united to Saint-Martin of Canigou; in 1293 King John I of Aragon intervened to stop scandals. In 1473 King Louis XI of France introduced commendation. From 1592 to the French Revolution, Cuxa belonged to the cloistered Congregation of Tarragona. The monks successfully opposed secularization (1694 and 170102), but evaded the reforms prescribed for French Benedictines by Pope Clement XIV (1772). In 1790 the Revolution dispersed the remaining eight monks, and on Jan. 27, 1793, the abbey was destroyed.

cistercians of the Congregation of Sénanque-Lérins restored monastic life at Cuxa in 1919. Remains of the old monastery include the church of St. Michael, an original specimen of Mozarabic art (10th11th century); one of the two square towers (11th century); the circular crypt called "Church of the Manger" with Trinity Chapel above (11th century); nine cloister arcades with superb capitals (12th century), though most of the Cuxa capitals are at The Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Bibliography: c. f. font, Histoire de l'abbaye royale de Saint-Michel de Cuxa (Perpignan 1881). l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés 1:937938. m. sahler, Les Grands ordres monastiques (Auch 1949), v.1, Les Abbayes de France 8891. m. durliat, Roussillon roman (La-Pierre-Qui-Vire 1958) 2969. m. b. brard, Catholicisme 3:391392. c. m. baraut, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques 13:112142.

[j. daoust]

About this article

Cuxa, Abbey of

Updated About content Print Article