If you go through Gavarnie, you must visit the church Notre-Dame du Bon Port.
Former chapel of a hospice established there in the 12th century by a Commandery of soldier-monks to shelter travellers on the old Way of St. James, the building dates from the 14th century except for its northern part, which is older.
As you enter the church, you can see a small cupboard with the inscription "Skulls of the Knights Templar".
The skulls were once placed on a beam in the nave. They were presented as the skulls of the Knights Templar beheaded in 1307 by order of Philip the Fair. We know today that there was never any Knights Templar at Gavarnie but only the Hospitallers of Saint John, but the legend is still alive. In 1952, in the "Revue du Comminges", the gravedigger of Gavarnie, who maintained the skulls, declared, "When they are too old, we change them! ».
To see in the church
In a side chapel, you can see the statue of Our Lady of Bon Port, object of a devotion that is still very much alive. Made of polychrome wood from the 14th century, she holds Christ on her left knee, raises her right hand in blessing and carries the pilgrim's gourd. She is similar to the seated virgin of Louvain (Belgium).
The choir is modestly decorated with a baroque altarpiece with twisted columns and punctuated with shells and acanthus leaves, while the nave houses a contemporary effigy of Saint James.
The cemetery offers a magnificent view of the cirque of Gavarnie. A square of the cemetery shelters the tombs or plaques of Pyreneans and guides among whom we note the names of : Trescazes, Dr Arlaud de Ledormeur, Célestin Passet, l'abbé Gaurier, Castagné, Adagas, Bernat-Salles.
One could also admire numerous relics accumulated by the Hospitallers according to the inventory drawn up in 1710 by the Grand Prior of Toulouse.
Among these are
- a vial of the Virgin's milk,
- a bone from the arm of Saint Lawrence,
- from the wood of the cross of Jesus Christ,
- of the bread of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves,
- of the wood of Aaron's rod,
- of the stone of the table of the Last Supper,
- a skull bone and a tooth of Saint John the Baptist,
- bones of Saint Madeleine,
- of the iron of the gate of Saint Barthélémy,
- two sticks healing rabies.
Eglise Notre-Dame du Bon Port