Iconic Life

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Unmissable Abbaye de Sénanque

Here, the Luberon offers us a uniquely stunning view which seems almost too good to be true. Perched high above the village of Gordes, the Abbaye de Sénanque has come to symbolise the Provence of our collective imagination. Its lavender field, 12th-century building and natural surroundings make it one of the most widely shared images of Provence around the world. In fact, the abbey is proudly displayed on the first page of the results when searching for images of Provence on the world’s most famous Internet search engine. Need we say more?

Founded in 1148 by monks from the Ardèche region, the Abbaye de Sénanque is Provence’s fourth-oldest abbey, after Le Thoronet, Aiguebelle and Silvacane. It stands as an exemplar of Cistercian architecture with its gardens, its cloister and its world-famous lavender field. Let’s explore further.


1148 : Notre-Dame de Sénanque is founded by Cistercian monks from theAbbaye de Mazan in the Vivarais region (Ardèche)

1220 : After nearly 60 years of construction, the abbey is completed. At the time, Saint Benedict requests that “the monastery should have all the necessities: water, a mill, a garden, a bakery and various trades so that the monks have no need to run outside, which is of no benefit to their souls.”

1544: The period is shaped by the beginnings of the Wars of Religion. Anarmed group of twenty-five Waldensians from Cabrières revolt and launch an attack on the abbey. The southern part of the monastery is burnt down, the refectory, the cloister’s fountain and the lay brothers building are destroyed, the archives aset on fire, and it is rumored that the twelve monks living in the Abbaye de Sénanque are hanged.

1880 : Gendarmes expel the monks in response to a new law against religious congregations: most of the monks leave for Fontfroide or the Abbaye de Lérins. Three monks are allowed to remain at Sénanque on condition that they join a secular order

1926 : A dozen monks begin living in the Abbaye de Sénanque. Notre-Dame de Sénanque is bought by the Abbaye de Lérins.

1969 : The three remaining monks are unable to cope with the onerous responsibility of running the abbey: they move back to their original abbey, the Abbaye de Lérins. The Abbot of Lérins decides to rent the abbey temporarily to a private owner, who commits to restoring the buildings. At the end of the contract, the site will be returned to theCistercian monks.

1988 - Lérins’ monastic community is large enough to expand to Italy (Dominus Tecum Pra'd Mill monastery) and plans a return to the Abbaye de Sénanque. On 4 October 1988, a community of Cistercian monks moves from the Abbaye de Lérins to the Abbaye de Sénanque.

The Abbey is just a few kilometers from our Les Hauts de Gordes property, 5 minutes by car and 10 by bike.

Discover more about Gordes via Icons, our collection of printed guides around our destinations.

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