The Senanque Abbey, a walk in the religious history of Provence
The Senanque Abbey was first built in the middle of the 12th century by Cistercian monks that came from the neighbouring area of the Ardèche. What was at first several Spartiate housing became over the years as the community of monks considerably grown and thanks to the Lords of Simiane, whose patronage allowed them to finance the construction of the Abbey church. Over the centuries, several extensions were added to the original building, up to what you can see today when visiting the Senanque Abbey. As the number of monks grew, so did the richness of the Abbey which lead to a paradox: Indeed, the monks had made the vow to live in poverty, which was no longer the case as the farmlands, products… allowed the Abbey to acquire many richness. This period of economic richness was coupled with a drastic fall in the number of monks desiring to join this Abbey.
In the 14th century, after years and years of monks leaving and no new monks joining, the Abbey found itself experiencing a decline in both devotion and discipline. As the Abbey was getting poorer and poorer, it then experienced another improving situation, as they were more in phase with the original devotion and were able to live by the word of the founding fathers, silence and poverty.
In the 16th century, alike what was happening across Europe, with the religious wars, the Senanque Abbey was victim of an attack of an opposing belief: many monks were hanged, and the abbey was partly destroyed.
In the 17th century, only two monks were living in the Abbey. In 1791, the Abbey was sold as a “Bien National” during the French Revolution. The Buyer was, thankfully, at the origin of improvements to the Abbey and repairs, in a time when these buildings were usually destroyed so that local could use the stones and materials to build other buildings or used to home the growing and developing industries of this time period.
Bought back by an Abbey, the Abbey of Lerin in 1857, the Abbey of Senanque was turned back to its original function and welcome a congregation of 72 monks.
Thanks to a contract with the car builder “Berliet” that financed reparations to the building, the Abbey of Senanque re-opened its doors.
Today, there are no less that 10 monks that live in the Abbey of Senanque, still following the rules of the founding fathers: the vow of silence and poverty.
The Abbey of Senanque is located on the territory of Gordes, in the Luberon. Gordes and the Luberon area as a whole is a wonderful place to do some of the greatest hikes and walks but also cycling tours in Provence. Thanks to its hilly if not low-mountainous landscape, the Luberon offers some splendid views in what is one of the most beautiful areas in Provence. If you are wanted to enjoy a Provence lavender walking tour or a Provence lavender cycling tour, the Luberon is the best destination to see them!!
The Senanque Abbey or “Abbaye de Sénanque” in French, is open to the public on a daily basis. Whether you would like to follow a guided visit or would prefer to visit it on your own, you will have the opportunity to do so.
When is the Abbey open to public?
The schedule of the opening hours varies from one month to another, this is why it is important that you check the hotel of the Senanque abbey before planning a visit there.
Also, as there still monks living there, and following their vow of silence and work, please bear in mind to respect the solemnity of the Abbey.
Usually, the Abbey is open daily, both mornings and afternoon, and follow this type of schedule:
- Unguided visits 9am-11am and 1pm to 5pm. No unguided tours on Sunday mornings.
- Guided visits: depend on the month. You can have a look at the website of the abbey to find all the needed information.
Why should you visit this abbey?
For the history of the place, its location in the Luberon area, its proximity to Gordes and, of course, thanks to its lavender fields, the Senanque Abbey is a must-see when enjoying a Provence walking tour or a Provence cycling trip in the heart of Provence.