«In this mutilated open-air church, owned by birds, in this serene charm of beautiful flowers in the ancient monastery courtyard, everything here seems to be immersed in meditation.”

Frédérique Barbut

The Cistercian abbey of Villelongue is located 20 km from the Cité de Carcassonne and 10 km from the Canal du Midi, two major sites in the Aude department (Occitania, France), classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is 6 km from Montolieu, “Village book”.

A dozen monks arrived in 1149 from the Bonfont Monastery (Bonnefont, a commune in France, located in the Midi-Pyrénées region) in the northwestern part of Saissac (a commune in France located in the former Languedoc region). The monks settled at the Black Mountain (Montagne Noire near Massif Central) foot, around the Saint Jean de Villelongue village.

The monks moved to the Vernassonne Valley then, where environmental conditions were more favorable. The St. Mary of Villelong Cistercian Abbey (Abbaye Cistercienne Sainte Marie de Villelongue) construction began in 1170.

(Cistercian white monks is the Catholic monastic order, branched off from the Benedictine order in the XI century).

It is known that the four abbots of Villelongue Abbey participated in the Albigensian Crusade (or the Cathar Crusade, 1209-1229), led by Simon de Montfort. The Abbey received a reward – half of the lands of Saint Martin le Vieil and the castle.

Villelongue Abbey becomes one of the region’s most influential and wealthy abbeys in the 12th century.

Its construction was fully completed by the end of the 12th century.

The wealth and desire to receive new decoration led to the second period of the abbey construction – it lasted from the 13th to the 14th century. Large Gothic windows appeared, the abbey territory was decorated with sculptures typical of the so-called “Gothic architecture of southern France,” which went beyond the austerity rules required by Saint Bernard.

Villelongue Abbey was almost the unique Cistercian abbey that had such a rich decoration.

The first difficulties came in connection with the Black Plague’s chaos. Inter-religious wars provoked a protracted economic crisis.

Three monks only lived in the abbey during the French bourgeois revolution.

The abbey and all of its lands were scattered and sold in 1791.

The abbey received its historical monument status in 1916.

Dr. André Eloffe (Docteur André Eloffe), whose family still lives in this area, acquired the abbey and began their first restoration work in 1963.

The Villelongue Abbey Friends Association was created In 1985, the purpose is to popularize it and participate in the restoration.

The abbey regularly hosts cultural events and music concerts today.

«A visitor who seeks pleasure from hidden charm will surely pause here, between heaven and earth, where everything changes color depending on the time of day and time of year. Just a few minutes here are enough to feel the serenity of the moment, and untimely eternity».

Benoit Chauvin “Stones for Villelongue” (Pierres pour Villelongue)

Visiting Time:

The abbey is open to visitors every weekend from 14:00 to 18:00 – (closes on Saturday at 16:00) from June 1st to June 30th and from September 1st to September 30th.

The abbey is open every day In July and August from 16:00 to 18:00 – (closes at 4 p.m. on Saturday).

How to get to?

From Paris – 7 hr 39 min (761 km) via A20

From Carcassonne – 22 km via N113, D6113, D629, D64

From Toulouse – 83 km via A61 (tolls), D4

From Narbonne – 94 km via A61 (tolls), D4

From Andorra – 2 hr 48 min (171 km) via N20

See here Pyrenees travel guide

See here France travel guide

See here Spain travel guide

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