Saturday, May 5, 2018

Along the abbey road in Corbières

We drove away from the coast yesterday into the hill country west of Narbonne. Our goal was to escape the wind and visit two different abbeys. This region known as the Corbières, is rocky and hilly with winding roads, valleys,  sleepy villages--and extensive vineyards.  It has a long history and was once the heart of Cathar territory, where religious wars between Catholics and the heretic Cathars (also known as Albigensians) who wanted to reform the church,  tore the region apart in the 12th Century.  Religious wars of one sort or another continued in this area for hundreds of years.

Driving through the area we saw remnants of fortified hill-top towns, ruined castles, and medieval villages each with a lofty church. Our first destination was the Abbaye de Fontfroide, a 12th Century Cistercian abbey. It's been added to and changed over the centuries but is remarkably well-preserved.  During the Middle Ages it was one of the most powerful abbeys in Europe and played a major role during the crusade against the Cathars. It was saved from ruin in 1908 when it was purchased by a wealthy couple who restored it.

This is the interior of the church with beautiful stained glass windows created in the early 1900s. And on the right the chapter house where the monks met with the Prior every morning.

The picture below is where the lay brothers (who did the work in the fields) slept on straw pallets.

This is looking down on the cloisters and below, two more views of them.

We had a wonderful lunch in the dining room, originally a sheep fold and then headed off to the next abbey in the medieval village of La Grasse.  Here's a bit of what we saw along the way. Many of the roads here are lined with tall Plane trees to form a tunnel, almost like a Gothic arch. And of course the roadsides are dotted with poppies, just coming into bloom as the Wisteria fades.

I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. I'm taking them with my iPhone and then emailing them to myself for inclusion here. The wifi where we're staying is very slow so the images are kind of blurry. But they'll give you an idea of what we're seeing.

Here's a few views of La Grasse, also listed as one of the "plus beaux villages de France" with good reason. It has lots of narrow winding streets where people from many countries live and create art. It was a little early in the season for much to be open though.

This is the Abbey of La Grasse which lies across the river by way of the 14th Century bridge. We didn't go into this one because we were ready to head back to Narbonne.  As Harry keeps telling me, "You can't see all of it on one trip."

By the way, we got back to Narbonne to find the wind still blowing strong. But this morning it's abated and we have a somewhat cloudy, drizzly day and sunshine is predicted for this afternoon.


  1. I laughed when I read Harry's comment... I was going to say the how can you process all this beauty. So many perfect beautiful photos.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. The two abbeys are both distinctive. Terrific shots!

  3. Ah yes, wind. We were lucky on our cycling trip that we were riding south & it was at our backs. I do recall Sete being very windy though. Friends are currently cycling north from Montpelier and having a tough time with the wind. Great photos! So much beauty everywhere!


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