NARBONNE , FRANCE
NARBONNE , FRANCE
We visited the Abbaye Fontfroide on our 2002 visit to France. The Abbey was founded between 1080 and 1095 by a group of Benedictine monks. The Benedictines were replaced by the Abbey joining the Cistercian abbey of Gransleve. The majority of the abbey building were built in the 12th and 13th centuries.
During the Albigensian Crusade the abbey sided with the Pope against the Cathar heretics. Good call as the loyalty was repaid by the Pope. In fact, an ex-Abbot of Fontfroide became Pope in 1334.
The abbey prospered for centuries. After the 14th century, however, things started to go a bit downhill. It was sacked during the French Revolution. In 1791 when it was abandoned. The city of Narbonne turned the abbaye into a hospice that helped prevent it from suffering the damage that others did after the French Revolution.
Thankfully to stop the sale of the cloisters, the Fayet Family from nearby Béziers purchased the property in 1908. This stopped the the Abbey from falling to the same fate as others in France which were purchased, dismantled and then shipped to the United States. Evidently, American sculpture and art lover Georges Grey Benard was doing this as part of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art's "Cloisters". Thankfully, Fontfroid was saved and It has since been very tastefully restored.
The galleries of the cloisters have ribbed vaulting. The oldest part is along the church and dates to the 13th Century. The section opposite that was restored or rebuilt in the 17th Century. The galleries are supported by pairs of marble colonnettes. They are in different colours and each with capitals carved with ornate plant motifs. A terraced roof is above the galleries. It really is a pleasant experience to visit.
We arrived in the afternoon. In the morning we had visited Carcassonne. It was very cold. It was our second visit to Carcassonne and each time the weather has been unpleasant. We had planned to eat at the cafe that is located in a building previously a barn. The cafe has a reputation for good food. No luck for us. We arrived too late. It was hard to get anything to each at all. But as we arrived at Fontfroid the sun broke through the clouds and it became the start of great warm weather that pretty much remained for the balance of the trip.
Visits through the Abbey are through guided tour. Well worth the wait - and that is not that long as they are quite frequent.