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Things to See in the Languedoc:   Historic Abbeys, Priories, Monastries and Convents:   Lagrasse Abbey

The Abbey, dedicated to St Marie d'Orbieu, is located in the Corbières, in the Aude département, next to the River Orbieu.
It was founded in 799 by a charter from Charlemagne (still extant), although the foundation seems to have been older still.  Nerodius, archbishop of Narbonne, is the nominal founder and first abbot.  He adopted the rule of St Benedict of Nursie.  This benedictine abbey became one of the most important abbeys in southern France, the mother establishment of 6 other abbeys, 25 priories, and 67 churches.  Sitting, as it did for centuries nearthe border of France and Aragon, it was pivotal in the politics and religious affairs of both countries. 
After a long period of decline (and the arrival of international stability) the abbey was subsumed by St Maur in the 17th century.  This new phase initiated a building program (including the archbishop's palace and cloister).  By the revolution only 14 monks remained at the abbey. They were expelled in 1792. In 1796 the Abbey was split and sold off in two parts.  One part has been in private hands since then, but the more historically interesting part is open to the public.  Notable are:
  • The main doorway, by the Master of Cabestany.
  • the bell tower (16th Century). From the top there's a good view of the village of Lagrasse and the surrounding countryside.
  • The Abbot's chapel (1296), featuring the remains of a mural depicting the tree of life and the last judgement.
  • The Abbey church with its two cloisters (13th and 18th centuries).
Getting there: (From the North) Halfway between Narbonne and Carcassonne, take the road from Lezignan to Fabrezan.  Continue to Camplong, under Mount Alaric, then onto Ribaute.  follow the winding road above the river until Lagrasse comes into view. 
To go to a page on the Village at Lagrasse, click here.
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