Lagrasse – SW France

Lagrasse is an artist’s delight with views around every corner. It is an old Cité and its Abbaye was one of the richest and important in Medieval France, founded by the authority of Charlemagne, no less, in the ninth century. It was given much land and concessions as a Benedictine house and had a very interesting history, even before being split in two after the French Revolution. We visited the medieval part, which through various communal uses is now a museum. This section doubled as the old monastery and the abbotts palace and had sumptuous painted decoration and sculpture. The dormitory and chapel were particularly interesting.

Monks, occitania, Charlemagne, Narbonne, Pyrénées
Lagrasse Abbaye in South West France near Narbonne.

There were also a couple of post modern art installations, one of which consisted burning some material on the wall of the dormitory, the residual soot leaving the image. This work by Christian Jaccard (b 1939) is part of a series of installations around the Occitania Region this summer.

Lagrasse, Pyrénées postmodernNarbonneFire art
Christian Jaccard, Ombres De Suie Partition Benedictine, 2017. Soot images Decorate the end wall of the dormitory at Lagrasse Abbey

The current monastery was built in the eighteenth century but we could not visit as we left early afternoon before it opened. We did happen to catch site of some monks in white habits. From seeing the tourist film it was not clear who the present monks / friars were as there had been some dissolution issues in the 1600s. More study needed!

The rest of Lagrasse was full of interesting buildings including a market hall, river bridges and the beautiful parish church of St Michael. This was full of paintings, painted friezes and stone work. The painted vaults were stunning, as was the gold decorated altar. Lagrasse takes some finding tucked into the foothills of the Pyrénées but the effort is amply rewarded for the art and architectural history.

View into choir apse at St Michael’s Parish Church in Lagrasse, South West France.

We had coffee at the Abbaye and reluctantly left, making a mental note to return some day.

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