Medieval villages always have a special charm for me.Älgbert Elgson
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Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is a popular place of pilgrimage in Occitania. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 and is part of the Way of St. James in France to Santiago de Compostela.
At that time the Benedictine monastery, built by Wilhelm of Aquitaine around 804, was still known as the „Monastery of Gellone“. When the builder died, he was buried in this monastery and soon worshiped, making the place a place of pilgrimage. In 1066, William of Aquitaine was canonized as the patron saint of armories, and from then on the flow of pilgrims to his grave increased. From the 12th century, the monastery was named „Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert“ in honor of the builder. At this time (11th – 13th centuries) the abbey church and the monastery were probably also built. After the relics of William of Aquitaine were scattered during the French Revolution (1793), they are now in the St-Sernin basilica in Toulouse.
The medieval town is one of the most beautiful villages in France, but it does not even have 300 inhabitants. The place lies in the valley of the Verdus stream, which then flows into the Hérault river. The monastery and the nearby „Pont du Diable“ (devil’s bridge), which leads over Hérault, are a popular destination for both tourists and pilgrims.
How to get there?
Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is about 40 kilometers from the next largest city, Montpellier. By car you can drive to just before the city, there are some paid parking spaces. In the high season, however, these are often very busy due to the large number of visitors. The parking lot has no height restrictions and can also be reached with a motor home.
A beautiful and well-preserved medieval village, which in the off-season seems very extinct due to the small population. In part you can see many empty houses. A large tree on the market square offers visitors some shade and some cafes are available during typical French opening hours. In general, we believe that much of the place’s original charm has been lost due to the large number of visitors and tourist shops.
The most beautiful thing about this place was actually the journey through picturesque valleys. During the journey it was not difficult for us to clear our head and relax during the drive. After every bend there is an even better place to take an unforgettable vacation snapshot.
We were here: 2019