Gentil de St Martin

Tragic memories are linked to the construction of the St Martin du Canigou abbey. I must tell you about the Gentiles of St Martin.

Gentil de St Martin

Gentil de St Martin

Ring the bells of the chapel merrily, for it is a great feast day in Saint-Martin-du-Canigou: in the midst of pilgrims from all corners of Roussillon, Gentil, son of Taillefer, was crowned knight by Guifre, and Griselda, the beautiful shepherdess, comes to lay her crown as queen of the party in her hands. But Taillefer takes a dim view of the friendly rapprochement of this peasant's daughter with Gentile from a noble family; he orders his son to renounce this unworthy love.

As the players fill the air with their harmonies, it is announced that the Moors have invaded Roussillon, landing on the hold of Argelès; the two brothers Taillefer and Guifre leave immediately to fight the enemy. But Gentil thinks of Griselda and, love prevailing in his heart over duty, he goes to take refuge behind the snow coat of the Canigou: like Telemachus in the cave of Calypso.

O sweet enchantment! As he admires nature, a beautiful stranger takes him by the hand and leads him to Fleur de Neige, the blonde fairy with the seductive gaze; with her majestic air and her amiable smile, Fleur de Neige reminds him of Griselda, a Griselda who would have exchanged her coarse shepherdess clothes for an admirable white dress sparkling with jewels. He will fall into ecstasy in front of her when the memory of reality hits his mind.

- Adorable princess, he cried, it is with regret that I must announce my departure. I would like to live at your feet, but I have to go fight the Moors, the archers are waiting for me impatiently. It would be betraying my country not to return to my post.

But at a gesture from Fleur de Neige, captivating nymphs appear before Gentil and lead him, as in a delicious dream, to the shores of Cady's pond, where he falls asleep, intoxicated with ideal Beauty. When he wakes up, Gentile finds himself in a golden gondola, surrounded by naiads holding the oars; he is deposited in the ivory palace of the fairies where an aerial chariot in gold and silver, adorned with pearls, is awaiting him, harnessed by seven agile does which Fleur de Neige will guide.

And on the way, through the magical mountains and snowy plains that make Canigou a marvelous region: a splendid panorama unfolds before the eyes of happy travellers, who go from Eyne to Girona, in the Sègre valley and the Seu d 'Urgell, at the summit of Neto maudit and finally descend to the foot of Canigou, in the Têt valley.

Gentil, dazzled by all the marvels he has just seen, agrees to celebrate his engagement with Fleur de Neige victorious. Fleur de Neige receives presents from her companions: the Mirmande fairy gives her a diamond mirror; the fairy of Galamus topazes from Bugarach, the fairy of Ribas a golden crown; the fairy of Banyolas a marvelously woven nuptial veil; the siren of Rosas of coral branches and pearls; the fairy of Fontargent the engagement ring and the fairy of Lanos a golden harp.

In his delight, Gentil sings his love when an unusual noise is heard which makes the fairies fly away. It's Guifre d'Arrin who arrives, beating a retreat. After Gentil's disappearance, Guifre had gone to meet the Saracens, in the valley of Corneilla, but had been unable to bear their shock and had taken refuge in the mountains of Canigou, hoping to find his companion there.

What was his despair and his anger when he saw Gentile covered in jewels, a harp between his fingers, and deprived of the sword which had been entrusted to him. Furious, his heart overflowing with indignation, he rushes at him and throws him over a precipice, and Gentile's body tumbles down to the plain of Cadi where the tearful fairies go to collect him.

Guifre immediately descends into the plain, and, recruiting warriors on his way, goes towards Collioure, to the aid of Taillefer, who burns the enemy galleys. The Moors are surrounded by the two armies and routed.

As soon as the victorious Taillefer sees Count Guifre again, he asks him what has become of his son Gentil:

'Gentil,' replies Guifre sadly, 'must be at the peaks of Canigou.

"So let's go meet him."

The two brothers arrive just as Gentil's shredded body is brought back. The despairing father prostrates himself before the corpse, but his pain soon turns to anger, and he asks, menacingly, the name of his son's murderer: Guifre, dismayed, loyally confesses his crime, awaiting with resignation the vengeful blow of the sword de Taillefer; but the two brothers are separated and Gentile is buried.

Count Guifre vowed to build a monastery here and end his days there, and soon the Abbey of Saint-Martin was erected, for which Countess Guifre embroidered an altar cloth in silver and silk. The fairies thus driven from these parts never reappeared on the Canigou. As for the poor shepherdess, Griselda, she lost her mind when she learned of the tragic end of her beloved.