TO DO | MUSEUM
Languedoc is a beautiful region with many extraordinary sites. L’Abbaye de Valmagne in Villeveyrac is one of them. No wonder that the Cistercian abbey officially got classified as a “Site d’Exception en Languedoc”. Visiting this peaceful place revealed some of its secrets. Like why are there huge wine casks inside the church?
Wealth and misfortune
Although the abbey’s turbulent history had taken its toll, it has always had loving people taking care of the property. Founded in 1139 by the Viscount of Béziers, l’Abbaye de Valmagne was a renowned, prestigious and wealthy abbey for about two centuries. To be followed by centuries of misfortune and misery, due to the Hundred Years War, Black Death and revolution.
Enormous wine casks
It wasn’t until 1791 that Monsieur Granier – Joyeuse bought the heavily damaged abbey of Valmagne. Not because of religious reasons, but because he wanted to make a wine cave inside the church. The Cistercian Monks already grew vineyards since the 12th century. Monsieur Granier – Joyeuse continued to produce wine and decided to use the side chapels of the cathedral to stock his enormous wooden wine casks. It almost seems like these chapels were made for it…
When Monsieur Granier – Joyeuse died in 1838, the family sold Valmagne to the Earl of Turenne, who decided to keep the wine casks. Up till this day, the abbey still belongs to descendants of the Earls of Turenne, and you can still see the wooden wine casks inside the cathedral. Luckily, l’Abbaye de Valmagne is well-taken care off these days. Renovations to the church and the monastery are ongoing. Which shows, as the abbey has won many prizes in recognition for their hard work.
Initially, the monks of l’Abbaye de Valmagne were Benedictine. Only for about 20 years though… However, they still followed the Benedictine rule that they couldn’t go outside of the abbey. To get a little bit of fresh air now and then, the monks could go to the monastery garden. Walking around this gorgeous lush inner garden, surrounded by the beautiful groin vaulted cloister, makes me wonder about how life would have been in those early days.
My moment of zen is completed when sitting by the gorgeous fountain. The Abbey of Valmagne is one of the rare abbey’s in France who was able to conserve its fountain. Pretty amazing if you think about all the damage that was caused to the abbey. From here, I can also admire the in 2000 replaced bells in the bell tower, as the old bells were melted during the revolution.
During the Middle Ages, the monks had their own vegetable garden. Obviously to feed themselves, but also to cure illness. Even this medieval garden was brought back to life. Nowadays you can find rare and forgotten plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits. The abbey’s restaurant “la Ferme-Auberge” uses these delights to cook with. And don’t forget about their biological produced wine! You can do a free tasting and get yourself a bottle or so in the shop. Enough reasons to go to l’Abbaye de Valmagne if you ask me!