Abbey de Fontfroide

Abbey de Fontfroide

The Abbey of Fontfroide, located near Narbonne in the Aude, is one of the most complete abbey complexes remaining today.

It was founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1093 by the Viscount of Narbonne but remained poor and obscure until in 1144 it affiliated itself to the Cistercian reform movement. The cloisters and chapter house date from the 12th century and are excellent examples of Romanesque architecture. In 1157 the Viscountess Ermengard of Narbonne granted it a great quantity of land locally, thus securing its wealth and status.

In its hey day the influence of Fontfroide soon dominated the entire region, all the way to Catalonia. Two Fontfroide monks in particular gained great fame: Arnaud Nouvel was appointed cardinal, chancellor of the church and eventually papal legate in the proceedings against the Templars. Another Fontfroide monk became Pope Benoìt XII.

In 1348, the Black Death reached Fontfroide Abbey and three-quarters of the monks were lost. In the 17th and 18th centuries, abbots of Fontfroide rebuilt many of the monastic buildings.

Abbey de Fontfroide

The last abbot, Père Jean, died in 1895 and a law in 1901 put an end to monastic communities, and the last of the monks fled to Spain.

The abbey remained uninhabited until 1908, when the property was sold at auction to the artists Gustave and Madeleine Fayet d'Andoque who bought it to protect the fabric of the buildings from an American collector of sculpture. They restored it over a number of years and used it as a centre for artistic projects.

It still remains in private hands today and is a wonderfully tranquil place to visit. Walking around the beautifully preserved buildings, it is easy to imagine the quiet lives of those monks through the centuries.

Things to do and see

Abbey de Fontfroide

Ambling around the buidings you get catapalted back in time. The beautiful church with its stain glass windows and the cloisters are stunning and the gardens peaceful and well kept.

The enclosed monastic complex of Fontfroide consists of two main areas: one for monks and one for lay brothers. The section reserved for monks is that nearest the church and the cloisters, while the section for lay brothers is that which opens to the outside world. The abbey buildings are arranged around the flow of water, which was needed for the gardens, the cloisters, the corn mill and the fish ponds.

Abbey de Fontfroide

The former outbuildings of the abbey have been completely restored and transformed into a visitors' area that includes a restaurant, a gift shop, bookstore and a wine cellar. The restaurant is open the same hours as the monastery. In the cellar, you can taste the Corbières Blanc produced at Fontfroide as well as the Corbières Rouge and the Rosé of St. Julien de Séptieme from the vineyards of the oldest Fontfroide grange. It also has a small working farm.

In addition they have a calendar of events that they run throughout the year on their website