Ste. Foy (Santa Fides in Latin meaning ‘Holy Faith’) at Conques elicits two memories in modern viewers: the serenity of her Romanesque church evocative of a bygone age and the seated golden statue of Santa Fides, bespeckled with gems and ancient cameos. Even though the saint (290-303 CE) was a twelve-year old virgin, who was tortured and martyred for her faith, her late-ninth-century golden sculpture refuses verisimilitude and forges instead the figure of a mature, powerful man, seated in majesty like a ruler and a judge. This disturbing incongruity between the fragility of the girl and the imposing and even threatening appearance of her virile imago remains unsettled for us today.

Art and architectural history have only approached the visible, material forms at Conques and ignored the sonic envelope that filled the ecclesiastical space and shaped the appearance of the saint in the imagination of its participants at Conques. This project confronts the issue head on by focusing on the barely known medieval music and poetry composed for Santa Fides. This liturgical chant, exquisitely crafted and demanding virtuoso singers, has not been transcribed and performed for over a thousand years. By animating the silenced voice, a deeper and richer understanding of Ste Foy emerges, inviting the modern interloper into medieval art and architecture to linger on the intangible presence of the saint. We recognize and explore how the ephemerality of sound, the evocative power of chanted words, the unsteady light of candles and oil lamps, and the intractability of smoke of burning incense, destabilize the material and concrete and stimulate the imagination to conjure up rich visions of the invisible celestial.

The medieval golden statue and its home in the interior of the monastic church were experienced in a sustained sonic atmosphere of chanted prayer, recitation, and song. It is this aural envelope that this project calls en-chantment. While volatile and existing in the ephemerality of performance, it kindled the imagination to produce pliable images of Santa Fides, encompassing inverted magnitudes of lover and virgin, servant and ruler, powerless girl and omnipotent judge and intercessor.

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