Away from the chaotic city life, cosily tucked away in a no-network area of Provence in France lies Sénanque Abbey. Here’s our guide on how to spend a day at this lavender drenched beauty. By Bayar Jain
They say the grass is usually greener on the other side. But, as with all things French, the norm is broken at Sénanque Abbey. Here, a swish of lavender paints the ground instead, and smiling monks greet you. Despite 2020 being the start of a new millennia, this sublime land seems to be frozen in time; making it an even more noteworthy inclusion in this year’s travel bucket list! A visit to the Sénanque Abbey is a must-see on any itinerary in Provence, and our quick guide will make it easier for you.
A Quick History
Built in the 12th Century, the Abbaye Notre – Dame de Sénanque – or simply the Abbey of Sénanque – exudes calm. This Cistercian Abbey was funded by the Bishop of Cavaillon and the Count of Provence for monks from the Ardèche region of France. Despite coming under attack by the Huguenots in the 16th Century, welcoming monks continue to reside in this architectural marvel. Today, the abbey consists of dormitories, a church, a reading room, a chapter room, and the cloisters – all of which you can see on a guided walk. Unguided tours with a HistoPad, a digital tablet, also allows you to soak in all the flavours from the summer of 1230.
A small community of monks have always lived here since the abbey’s inception, except in early 1920s. During this period, monks were expelled and sent to live at Lerins Abbey near Cannes. On returning, they converted the abbey into a business for economic viability. Two principal industries, one of which is the harvest of lavender and forest. These products are also available for sale at the abbey. The other industry set up directly caters to tourists – lodging. Monks allow tourists to stay as guests on a retreat while also providing them with food.
What To See
Simplicity lies at the heart of the Abbey of Sénanque. Austere beauty, minimalistic decorations, and Romanesque architecture blend effortlessly with the breathtaking natural landscape. The subtle fading in the stone of the building add to the timelessness of the space. When here, don’t miss out on the panoramic view across the fields of the main apse with three windows. The four apsidoles flanked by the low roof sheltering, the sacristy, chapter house, and warming house should also be on your list.
Juxtaposing the Cisterian vibe that resides here is the 13th Century fine Gothic tomb of Lord Geoffroy of Venasque. Exquisite architecture aside, the lush lavender fields are sure to enthral you. After a picnic, head for a walk around these spectacular spaces for those all-important Instagram photos.
Days: The Abbey of Sénanque is open every day of the year except December 25, January 1, January 15, and January 16.
Opening Hours: The first tour starts at 10:00, and the last one at 15:30. However, specific timings vary according to the type of tour (individual, unguided with HistoPad or group) you opt for.
Admission Fee: The price varies from being free (for children under age six, and priests) to GBP 9.50 (adults opting for unguided HistoPad tour). However, the admission fees contribute to maintaining and restoring the Abbey of Sénanque.