Abbaye de Fontfroide reveals some of its secrets

By March 20, 2018MUSEUM, TO DO

One of the largest Cistercian abbeys of France is the Abbaye de Fontfroide (see previous post here). Situated close to Narbonne in the Aude department, this well-preserved abbey gathers more than 1,000 years of history. Every now and then, L’Abbaye de Fontfroide opens its doors a bit further during the many themed visits organised. I was very curious to discover the private rooms of the monastery, especially because these rooms are normally closed to the public.

Deplorable state

Our guide explained how Gustave and Madeleine Fayet bought the abbey in 1908 after the last monks had abandoned it in 1901. Gustave was a wealthy landowner, businessman, heir of a considerable fortune, collector of art and a painter himself. He was considered a dynamic man of the world. When he and his wife Madeleine bought the abbey, it was in a deplorable state. The couple took up the restoration immediately. To be finished after more than ten years.

Eclectic makeover

To this date, the fourth generation of the Fayet family still looks after the continuous renovation of their ancestors. The Cistercian Order attached great value to a sobriety and austerity decoration. Which wasn’t really Mr Fayet’s cup of tea. Although the architecture of the historical abbey didn’t change, the interior did get an eclectic makeover. The Fayet’s added colourful paintings, tapestry and tiles, fountains and statues with elaborated figures and brought life back in the monastery.

Private rooms

After being explained more about the history of the Abbaye de Fontfroide, our guide opened the door to the private rooms. And we entered a completely different world. From “Le Parloir” we walked into “Le Salon Vert”. This beautifully decorated salon used to be the kitchen during the Middle Ages. I especially liked the green colour of this room. In fact, it is almost the same green we have in our bedroom. So maybe I am an eclectic person just like Gustave Fayet…

Vivid imagination

We continued our way to the dining room. Because of Mr Fayet’s connections with the art world, he loved inviting his artist friends. A big table was already set, I could vividly imagine all the great parties that must have been thrown in this very room. Via the children’s dining room, with a huge collection of beautiful plates on the wall, we entered the kitchen. It was decorated in a way that I felt like stepping back in the 19th century. Thanks to this guided visit, L’Abbaye de Fontfroide was brought more alive. And it made me already plan my next trip to this well-kept monument. Always wanted to hear a Gregorian Choir in such a history soaked place!


L’Abbaye de Fontfroide is open all year round, except for the 25th of December and the 1st of January. They organise many themed visits as well as concerts; check their website for more details. You can also discover the abbey at your own pace with a tour on your tablet or smartphone. There are two restaurants on site: one with snack style food and another more gastronomic one. More information, also about the history of the monument, at the abbey’s website.

Abbaye de Fontfroide
Narbonnaise en Méditerranée Natural Regional Park
Route Départementale 613
11100 Narbonne
+33 (0)4 68 45 11 08


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