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Things to See in the Languedoc:   Historic Abbeys, Priories, Monasteries and Convents:   Valmagne

In 1139 Raymond Trencavel, Viscount of Béziers founded the Abbey of Valmagne in the Parish of Villeveyrac, near the port of Méze on the "Bassin de Thau". Originally Valmagne was founded under the Benedictine order but in 1159 the monks joined the Cistercian movement.

The Abbey, in the modern Hérault département, is one of the few Abbeys of the Languedoc to have survived the vicissitudes of the French Revolution in good shape, though some restoration has been necessary.

From the XII th. to the XIII Th. Century, Valmagne was one of the richest abbeys in South of France

The early days of the abbey were a period of great prestige, growing wealth and expansion, as the Catholic Church in general and the Cistercian order in particular engineered the dispossession of the Counts of Toulouse and Viscounts of Béziers and Carcassonne, during the Crusade against the Cathars and the subsequent Annexation of the Languedoc to France

Valmagne suffered during the Hundred Years Wars, and later of the Wars of Religion. The attack of the Huguenots in 1575, organised by Valmagne's own abbot, who had joined the Reformers, was a disaster for the Abbey. The glass of the rose windows and clerestories were broken, and the abbey took two centuries to recover even part of its original splendour.

 
The Abbey Church

At the Revolution in 1789, the last five monks fled just ahead of peasants who invaded and ransacked the abbey, burning documents, furniture and works of art. Confiscated as a national property, the abbey was sold in 1791 to Mr Granier-Joyeuse who turned the church into a vine cellar, placing massive vats in the nave and chapels, which at least prevented the building from becoming a stone quarry, the fate of most French abbeys.

On the 29 Th. of July 1838, following the death of Mr. Granier, the abbey and its dependencies were sold to the Count de Turenne, and still remains in the possession of his descendants.

The actual church in classical Gothic style was begun in 1257 on the foundations of the original Romanesque chapel, which had become too small for the ever-increasing number of monks. Inspired by the cathedrals of the North of France; it measures 83 meters long and 24 meters high.

The cloister has the charm of a Tuscan garden, with the Chapter House and its ribbed vault, and its fountain bringing pure fresh water from the spring of Diana.

 
Wine Barrels in the Chapels

The owners have won prizes in recognition of the work done to restore the Abbey and has been open to the public since 1975. The abbey has been fully restored, new bells having been put back in the bell tower. Classed as Historical Monument the site is open to visitors every day in summer and in the afternoon during winter.

Gardens include:

  • The Cloister Garden. Cistercian Monks were not allowed to leave the Monastery. This inner courtyard would allow them to admire blue sky and a peaceful garden. Citeaux roses, specially created for Cistercian abbeys and black bamboos provide a distinctive charm.
  • Medieval Garden. Outside near the St Blaise chapel, which was also the “porterie” where the gardian use to stay, a medieval garden has been created on the model of St Gall. In the Middle Age, the monks used to grow plants to feed themselves, cure illnesses and decorate altars. This reconstitution shows the vegetable plants ‘hortus’ , the medicinal plants ‘herbularius’, a green cloister and a monk’s cemetery.
  • The Grape Conservatory - Located on the opposite side of the Medieval Garden, where you can identify the different grapes used in the wines of the Valmagne vineyards, including: Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Morrastel
 
The Cloister Garden

More about the Abbey of Valmagne

 

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Abbeys - Valmagne