Sénanque Abbey is probably the most photographed building in Provence. In most photos you will see the lavender in full bloom, but by October the bushes are trimmed back and the tourists are few.
We arrived via the rocky GR6 path from our B&B in Gordes. It’s not far, maybe around 2Km along a well signposted path through the countryside.
On reaching the abbey turn right toward the front of the building to buy tickets for a self guided tour. The building is austere and simple but the stone work is stunning and the little garden in the middle of the cloisters was perfectly peaceful.
The abbey is still home to a community of Cistercian monks. After being expelled in 1908 they set up here again in 1988. Behind the old building are the more modern offices and accommodation. I think they might also run spiritual retreats for religious people.
I find these old churches and Abbeys absolutely fascinating in terms of their history and the ingenuity and talent of the stonemasons, artists and carpenters. These are the real heroes of these old buildings – much more than the wealthy owners that commissioned them. They are the people that I like to think about when walking around these beautiful places. I read a book by Ken Follet years ago called Pillars of the Earth. It’s a historical novel that goes into great detail about the stonemasons that built these churches and the technical difficulties that they faced, not to mention the time it takes to build these monuments. Also, it’s incredible to think of the industry that went on around these abbeys and cathedrals – they were great money making businesses in the middle ages.
This walk was a lovely way to spend the morning. We hiked back up the hill to Gordes and had a chilled out lunch in town. It only took about 40 minutes from our B&B and the rough path was easy – just take sensible walking shoes.
Next up: Gorgeous Gordes and the weekly market.