Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Probably one of the most photographed monasteries in France when the lavender blooms.

Älgbert Elgson

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The Sénanque Abbey was founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks. The rules of the Cistercian order are reflected in the architecture – the building has been designed to be strictly rectangular and understated. Nevertheless, the abbey differs in some points from other comparable monasteries from this period. For example, the church does not face east as usual to catch the first rays of sunshine behind the altar at sunrise. Due to the north-south orientation of the valley in which the abbey was built, the church is oriented to the north. The strict rule of lack of decoration was also interrupted in some places. In the cloister, for example, the columns of the arcades are decorated with varied capitals. Magnificent murals or floors decorated with mosaics are, however, in vain.

Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque
Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque

The monastery grew rapidly and was soon able to found daughter monasteries. During the French wars of religion in the middle of the 16th century, parts of the monastery were burned down. Some monks were even hanged.
After the French Revolution, the abbey became state property at the beginning of the 19th century, which probably helped to prevent the monastery from being destroyed again.
It was once again inhabited and managed by monks.
Despite the attempt to revive the monastery, it was vacant again from 1870 to 1940 and from 1969 to 1988. The Notre-Dame de Sénanque abbey is now part of the Lérins abbey on the Île Saint-Honorat in Cannes and only a few monks live there permanently.

  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque
  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque
  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque

The abbey is mainly known for the beautiful location and during the lavender bloom for the surrounding purple sea of flowers. The building itself can only be visited on a guided tour. The necessary tickets are sold in the monastery shop and audio guides are distributed.

  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque
  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque
  • Abtei von Sénanque | Abbey of Sénanque

How to get there?

As with Gordes, it is advisable to travel by car due to the remote location. There is a free parking lot in front of the abbey. Anyone arriving from Gordes on the D177 should definitely stop in front of the curve and enjoy the view of the monastery from there. This place, marked in red in the picture below, is also ideal for a lunch break. The street is a one-way street from this point until the entrance to the monastery in summer. To go back to Gordes, you just have to take the path through the monastery car park.

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If you have the opportunity, you should definitely visit the abbey during the lavender blossom. Outside this season, the abbey is still beautiful to look at, but no comparison to the almost kitschy view in the middle of the purple sea of flowers.

We were here: 2019

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