Lagrasse Abbey and Medieval City

An important and colourful site

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In this small valley surrounded by steep hills on the banks of the river Orbieu, the largest Benedictine Abbey in medieval Languedoc once prospered. On the other bank, opposite this imposing silhouette, an award-winning "Most Beautiful Village in France" invites you to discover its riches and larger-than-life treasures...



 Under the protection of the Carolingians since the second half of the 8th century, and richly provided for by Catalan counts in the 11th and 12th centuries, Lagrasse Abbey became one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys in Languedoc. Its abbot was also the lord of an important market town, founded in the 13th century on the other bank of the Orbieu. He had to negotiate with mayors ("consuls"), who represented the villagers, to organise the city life. The Abbey was weakened by the Albigensian Crusade, and raids by the Cistercian and Templar monks. In 1279, Abbot Auger de Gogenx restored the Abbey to its former glory and entirely remodelled it. The town and Abbey were transformed to face the turbulence of the 14th and 15th centuries. At the end of the 16th century, the monks, sons of local minor nobility, no longer respected the Rule of St Benedict. In 1662, they refused to respect the authority of the Maurists, who had been tasked with reforming the Abbey. The Maurists eventually restored order, and directed the Abbey until the French Revolution. Following the Revolution, the monastery was divided into separate secular and religious parts.

Overview of the Abbey

After the construction of the abbatial palace by Abbot Auger de Gogenx in the 13th century, with modifications made in the 16th century, the monastery radically changed in the 17th and 18th centuries due to the Maurist reform. The Abbey is predominantly built in the medieval style, with traditional workmanship for the main buildings, except for the Gothic church and its three Roman apse chapels.

Living quarters

This area was designed by the Abbot Auger de Gogenx, and is arranged around an elegant courtyard. A gallery supported by nine columns topped with capitals, leads to the back rooms, and, upstairs, the abbot's private rooms. A magnificent 16th-century fireplace takes centre stage in the state room, and the private chapel reveals its two levels...

The Abbey Chapel

The lower entrance to the Chapel still has its vaults painted with Auger weapons, crossbreeds and a carpenter. On the first floor, the walls of the Chapel are decorated with a Tree of Life and a scene from Judgement Day. On the floor, varnished tiles in alternating colours depict zodiac signs, hunting scenes, fleurs-de-lis and roses. In the choir stalls, the finely-sculpted piscina will catch your eye: this basin collects the sanctified water used by the priest to purify the chalice.

Master sculptors

The twelfth-century white marble doorway has fourteen components, which bear the signature of the Master of Cabestany. The recumbent statue of Auger is the work of a sculptor from the Narbonne Cathedral, during the 13th century. This recumbent statue was used as a pipe: the severed head is kept with the canons of the Abbey.

The master architects

The dormitory, built at the beginning of the 14th century, is a magnificent, two-storey room, which, in the Middle Ages, was undoubtedly made in one piece. From the outside, its fortified appearance is due to machicolations (an opening to drop missiles or boiling liquid on the enemy) The bell tower was built by Philippe the First of Lévis, the commendatory abbot of Lagrasse and the bishop of Mirepoix, as a show of generosity. The cloister and the garden add a touch of sophistication, whilst the elegant ostentation of the "cour d'honneur" (a three-sided ceremonial courtyard) makes the Abbey look like a palace.

Things to explore

As you walk


During the French Revolution, the abbey was divided in half and sold. One half, which is now the current monastery, was returned to the Sarrail family. Today, it is owned by the Chanoines Réguliers de la Mère de Dieu, a religious community. The other half, the abbot's palace, was bought by the Berlioz family. These residents of Lagrasse sold their half to the Oeuvres des Médaillés Militaires in 1928. A orphanage was established there, welcoming the children and grandchildren of decorated soldiers until the end of the 1970s. Today, some still come to share with us their moving memories of the warm welcome they received despite difficult conditions. A precious list of residents is available for those who want to find their friends.  

Sharing memories