Thursday, July 31, 2014

Abbaye Fontfroide

Trip to Aude: Day2

The afternoon at Gruissan, after the oyster lunch at the salt works, we decided to take a trip to the Fontfroide Abbey. The abbey isn't far from Narbonne, and Narbonne isn't far from Gruisasn. In fact, any sensible person would have told us to take the highway to Narbonne, and continue on to the abbey. But who said we were sensible? Google maps suggested there was a shortcut, bypassing the city. It involved accessing the abbey from the rear. It was a scenic route, with ponds and canals and hills and whatnot. We plumped for it. We got lost. There was no road where Google Maps insisted there was a road. There was no back access to the abbey (or if there was, it was a private road). We ended up driving in a huge detour through narrow crisscrossing hill roads to get back to the front. We got lost dozens of times in the rugged hills, with no one around to ask for directions. It took us four hours to get there eventually, with the sun about to set and the abbey about to close for the day. Never mind. It was an exhilarating drive.

Abbey Fontfroide is an 11th century Cistercian monastery. It played a part in the Cathar history in that it was involved in the wars against the Cathars in the 13th Century by Pope Innocent III. The monks were driven out during the French revolution. In the 20th Century, it passed into private hands and is today used as a place for artistic events. The interiors are said to be amazing, architecturally. But since we arrived at closing time, we could only look at the exteriors. Still, the exteriors were pretty impressive too.

Here are some pics:

We climbed a hill overlooking the abbey and had a look at it from the top. The hills around the abbey were used by the Cistercian monks to grow all kinds of medicinal trees and herbs, since Cistercian abbeys were supposed to be self-sufficient. The valleys were used for growing grapes. There are also watchtowers atop all the hills. Those were violent times, even monks needed watchtowers. You can see all that in these pics:-

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