Nestled in the most secret parts of the hinterland, the Abbaye de Sénanque, Thoronet and Silvacane embody another Provence, one that is spiritual and mystical. Their Cistercian heritage illustrates the influence of the Order in medieval times in the region.
A Bit of History
Founded by Saint Bernard de Cîteaux in the late 11th century, at the height of Western Christianity’s spiritual awakening, the Cistercian Order is organised around work, prayer and liturgical life. It encourages its members to live apart from the world. It is in this context that the Cistercian abbeys of Provence were constructed, their bareness reflecting the austerity advocated by the Order. In the 12th century, the Cîteaux Order developed under the impetus of Bernard de Clairvaux (1090-1153), spiritual master of the Cistercians.
The Abbaye de Sénanque
Located in the valley of the same name, near Gordes in the Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon, the Cistercian Abbaye de Sénanque is surrounded by lavender fields and wooded hills. Built in 1148, the monastery was burned and partly destroyed during the religious wars in the 16th century, then abandoned afterwards. In 1988, a new community of monks established itself there, reconnecting with centuries of Cistercian tradition.
The Abbaye du Thoronet
Built in 1146 in the hinterland of the Var, the Abbaye du Thoronet is distinguished by its architecture, which combines a play plays with proportions and space in a sparse style. The architect-planner François Pouillon was inspired by this sublime structure in the aftermath of the Second World War. Since 1991, it has been the atypical setting for the Rencontres Internationales de Musique Médiévale, which bring about 2,500 spectators to Le Thoronet.
The Abbaye de Silvacane
Located in La Roque d’Anthéron, thirty kilometres north of Aix-en-Provence, the Abbaye de Silvacane took shape in 1144. It owes its name to the reeds of the nearby Durance, the biggest river in Provence. Since the 1980s, it hosts pianists from all over the world every summer at the Festival International de Piano de la Roque d’Antheron.