Saint Guilhem-le-Désert Abbey
The Abbaye de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert (or Abbaye de Gellon) is a Benedictine Abbey founded in the year 804, sitting now in the center of the little village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, beside the Hérault river valley.
Entrance into the abbey (free) is via an ancient but nondescript door giving on to the very busy main square of the the village.
The Abbey de Gellone, the Hérault Gorge and the nearby Pont du Diable make up a UNESCO World Heritage Super Site.
The part of the cloister that remains here is, on the north and west sides, is the first part constructed, in the 11th century. The east and south galleries were built in 1205 and included sculptures. Upper galleries were added around 1300.
Most of the cloisters were were pulled down at the beginning of the 20th century, and the cloister sculptures were sold in 1906, ending up at The Cloisters in New York City.
The organ was built in 1782-1789 but not finished, although playable. The organ's completion was stopped by the French Revolution. In 1804 it was planned to transfer the organ to Notre-Dame-des-Table in Montpellier, but someone substituted the name of Saint-Thibéry in place of St-Guilhem-le-Désert. [We don't suppose the people of Saint-Thibéry are too pleased about that.]
Restoration began in 1968, and continued in the1970's and 80's. Final restoration occurred beginning in 2000 and continued until 2014.
The Museum of the Abbaye de Gellone is located inside the main abbey, in the Salle du Réfectoire des Moines. Entry to the Abbey is free, but there is a small charge of €2.50 (in 2014) for the museum. Both the abbey and the museum are open year-round.