Valmagne Abbey, France

Valmagne Abbey is a beautiful Cistercian abbey that was transformed into a wine cellar after the French Revolution. Its magnificent Gothic church has been called the "Cathedral of the Vineyards."

Valmagne Abbey was founded in 1139 by Raymond Trencavel, Viscount of Béziers. The abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and given to Benedictine monks. The abbey joined the Cistercian order two decades later.

In the 12 and 13th centuries, the Cistercian Abbey of Valmagne was among the richest abbeys in the south of France. The great Gothic church, inspired by cathedrals in northern France, was added in 1257.

The abbey's downfall came with the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and the Religious Wars (16th century). The extensive damage inflicted by Huguenots on the abbey in 1575 — which included the smashing of all stained glass — was instigated by the abbot of Valmagne, who had converted to Protestantism.

At the French Revolution in 1789, the last five monks of Valmagne fled just ahead of rebellious peasants, who ransacked and burned the abbey. In 1791, Valmagne Abbey was sold by the government to a private citizen, who turned into a wine cellar. This unusual use of the abbey church saved it from destruction. The abbey has been beautifully restored and was opened to the public in 1975.

Today, wine barrels still occupy the ambulatory of the Gothic church and visitors relax by the running fountain in the cloisters that was used by the monks to wash up before Mass. The abbey has an atmospheric wine tasting room — a high-vaulted room with an oversized chateau-like fireplace. The reconstructed medieval gardens bloom with honeysuckle, white roses, and medicinal plants. Here the monks grew plants for food, medicine and decoration of the Virgin Mary altar.


Quick Facts on Valmagne Abbey

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Names:Valmagne Abbey
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Coordinates:43.486969° N, 3.562322° E
Lodging:View hotels near Valmagne Abbey
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© Adrian Fletcher

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