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Saint Hilaire Abbey


Gallery of 20 photos for Saint Hilaire Abbey

This 8th century Benedictine Abbey in the village of St Hilaire, a few minutes south of Carcassonne, has a lovely cloister and and an interesting interior to visit. It sits amidst village houses, so there's not the typical exterior view of an ancient abbey, but it's well worth a visit.

Saint Hilaire | Saint Hilaire Abbey | Saint Hilaire Abbey Plan | Limoux Wine |

The first building here was a Saint Hilaire Chapel. It was replaced in the 9th century by a Benedictine Abbey called Saint Saturnin, dedicated to the Saint Saturnin who was martyred in Toulon in the 3rd century. In the 10th century, the abbey came under the control of the Count of Carcassonne, and the name (and dedication) was changed from to Saint Hilaire, who was the Bishop of Carcassonne in the 6th century. Saint Hilaire Abbey lead a peaceful existence for the next three centuries, under the protection of Carcassonne.

picsmaps/st-hilaire-abbey-plan001bb250.jpg Map of the Abbey. We've included a plan (map) of the abbey to help you find some of the main features, such as the decorated room of the Abbot's appartment and the intricately sculpted sarcophagus of Cabestary.

Cathars

In the year 1209, the Albigensian Crusade began its war against the Cathars, bringing the fight to Saint Hilaire, where the monks were accused of siding with the Cathar heresy. During the Albigensian Crusade the Abbey was pillaged, and some of the lands were given over to a local Dominican community, the Prouilhe.

Although not built as a Cathar Castle, this connection is why the Saint Hilaire Abbey is often included with a lost of the Cathar Castles.

Cloister of St Hilaire

East gallery of the St Hilaire The lovely cloister of Saint Hilaire Abbey was built in the 14th century, surrounded by four galleries supported by slender double columns. The form of the cloister is a slight trapezoid: there are 12 arches each along the east and the west sides, 14 on the north side, and 16 on the south side. In the center of the cloister is a four-lobe fountain dating from the 16th century, and a stone well set a bit to the side.

Abbot's Appartment

Decorated ceiling of Abbot's appartment in The Abbot's appartment (logis abbatial) at the east side of the cloister is the most richly decorated room in the Abbey, contrasting with the monochrome stone colors of the rest of the place. This was the Abbot's private space, sitting room and bedroom, and it's decorated pretty much to reflect his personality. The ceiling paintings of animals, humans and geometric forms, was done at the end of the 15th century. The wall decorations, painted in the 19th century were more practical, depicting the coat of arms of all the Saint Hilaire abbeys, with their names and the dates of their elections.,

Monks' Refectory

High brick walls of the Monks A Monks' Refectory and adjacent Guest Refectory are located off the south gallery of the abbey cloister. The Guest Refetory is closed off, but the high-ceiling Monks Refectory can be visited. The huge, open room is lighted through an arched window at ground level.

A pulpit sits up high in the thick wall that separated the two refectories, and you can still climb up there via the narrow, spiral stone staircase. The pulpit seat was low, and hidden from below, so the dining Monks could be preached to by a disembodied voice from above.

Sarcophage of Saint Sernin

Finely sculpted sarcophagus in the St Inside the church of the St Hilaire Abbey is a 12th-century sarcophage dedicated to Saint Sernin, intricately sculpted from a solid block Pyrenees white marble. Saint Sernin was the first Bishop of Toulouse in the 3rd century, and was martyred there by the Romans, with a bull dragging him through the streets of the town.

The beautifully detailed sarcophage is attributed to the Maître de Cabestany, an anonymous master scupltor of the 12th century. The existence of the Master of Cabestany was determined in the 1930s by historians, based on identical methods and styles in outstanding work of that period, and from the occasional mention of the name on ancient work receipts.

Practical

Open. Jan-Mar, Nov, Dec: 10h - 17h (2019)
    Apr-June, Sept-Oct: 10h - 18h
    July, Aug: 10h - 10h
Cost: Adults 5.50 euros; kids 6-15 years 2 euros
Public toilets (WC) are located in the Monks' Refectory. Free, neat, clean.

Limoux Wine

picssite/limoux-wine0003b.jpg

Limoux blanquette is thought to be the world's first sparkling wine. The first written record of this were written in 1531 by Benedictine monks at the Saint Hilaire Abbey. The monks described making and distributing Saint-Hilaire's blanquette in cork-stoppered flasks. The word "blanquette" is from the Occitan, for "small white", the small presumably referring to the bubbles.

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