France is a land of jewels. Jewels that withstand the agues of time.
The Church of Sainte Marie, in Vals, Ariege near Pamiers is one such example. A jewel, on a small country road. A jewel waiting to be visited. The rocks, the caves have been a place of worship for 2000 years. A place for shelter, and security against the roughness of nature and man.
People have lived here since the 9th century BC - and probably for much longer. So it has a spirit trail. The church no doubt was built over an older place of sanctity.
The church is built on 3 levels - a lower nave - dating back to pre romanesque times; a higher nave, renovated in the 19th century, and finally the topmost chapel bearing witness since the 12th century, with its fortified tower.
As an added miracle there are some lovely frescoes dating from the 11th century, with links to the grand traditions of Catalonia, and Roman painting depicting the Annunciation, the Nativity, the 12 apostles (only 4 still showing), and the Parousia - with archangels - a depiction unique in France.
Visit Vals, Ariege - Just 14 kms from Mirepoix; 83 kms from Toulouse; and 66 kms from Carcassonne