The priest who missed mass

Berdot (built 1623)

 It happened most likely on a Sunday 300 years ago. A certain priest stepped out of the bastide of Saint Ybars and descended towards the valley village of Sainte Suzanne an hour’s walk away.

There was a congregation waiting, the priest deep in thought and probably worn out by the burden of serving two churches in the midst of wars and farmers’ woes.

Up on a hillock a farmhouse stood, cattle and horses grazing under apple trees. The priest decided to make a detour for a short rest and perhaps a welcoming drink. The heavy day weighed him down, the spirit drowned him and he fell into a deep sleep.

Meanwhile the congregation was waiting. In their best suits and behaviours, they waited but no priest came.

“Enough waiting!” some said, “We know the mass well to carry on without a priest from Saint Ybars”. Some others were determined to continue waiting. There was much debate that day and eventually two distinct groups were formed. And so it started one of the longest countryside revolution from the 17th century to 1948 when Sainte Suzanne was finally granted independence from Saint Ybars. 

The farmhouse where the priest fell asleep is Berdot, the present home of Irene and Tony and where I’ve been staying for the past six weeks. I must admit I exercised a bit of creative license telling the story. The facts are with Tony and the Foix archives.

Nevertheless, it’s such an interesting story that I decided on tracing the priest’s journey to Berdot this cold and wet morning.

Down from the old bastide which has lost all its fortified walls, the winding road gleaming from last night’s rain, past a broken house with its abandoned garden, an old Roman water fountain with its pump handle intact, the avenue of trees leading to two silent fields separated by a gurgling brook.

The original carriageway hard and turfless with wild flowers on both sides, a pair of eagles winging above, the sky turning luminous blue, the grey clouds a memory away and Berdot appeared just around the corner.

It was quite a climb up to the house. When I arrived, Irene was just getting lunch ready and I can rest as long as I like here. Unlike the priest, I won’t be starting a revolution but just to relive the tradition of Berdot’s hospitality.

Joan Yap

Church of Saint Ybars (13th century)


Sainte Suzanne
Sainte Suzanne








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