Saint-Hilaire Abbey

At twelfth-century treasure trove

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Located halfway between Carcassonne and Limoux, Saint-Hilaire forms part of the collective conscience. You only need step into the Abbey to have 1000 years of history spark your imagination.

HISTORY

Louis the Pious singled out the Abbey in the 9th century: he gave it a major role by providing the greatest protection from a Carolingian King. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Benedictine Abbey used its influence. In the 10th and 11th centuries, it became the cemetery for the counts of Carcassonne. One of the greatest artists of the 12th century created one of his masterpieces: a reliquary marble alter, (one of his masterpieces), in honour of Saint Saturnin, the Abbey's patron saint. The Abbey endured the Albigensian Crusade and the consequences of an attack by the Black Prince during the Hundred Years' War. The Abbey survived, reinforcing its defences and adding innovative embellishments from the Gothic period. The Abbey's living quarters are decorated with painted ceilings, which are outstanding examples of the problems at the end of the 15th century, which will soon see the Wars of Religion destroy the kingdom of France and the village of Saint-Hilaire...

The Master of Cabestany

The reliquary-alter of Saint Saturnin is one of the masterpieces of the Master of Cabestany. The dynamism of his art is very spectacular here, with a bull that springs with all its might out of the "frame". It is unusual to be able to enjoy a Roman masterpiece at eye-level. Why Saint Saturnin at Saint-Hilaire? Who are they? What story does this work tell? These are some of the many questions that make this visit even more exciting.

The Gothic cloister

The Gothic art in Saint-Hilaire is extremely elegant. The twin columns of the cloister, built in around 1340, are linked by capitals carved from a single block of stone, decorated with monsters or greenery. Colours subtly dance on the new refectory pulpit. During their reconstruction project, the abbots mobilised all the resources of the Abbey, which remained powerful despite the Crusade.

The painted ceilings

The painted ceilings of the Abbey's living quarters recall both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. You can see both Joan of Arc, and fantastic beasts. This is the medieval iconography of courtly scenes, which was a new trend in the depiction of daily life during the 15th - 16th centuries. The individual becomes self-aware, portraits develop, and the desire for comfort emerges.

The cellars

In the Middle Ages, enormous grain silos were dug in the ground. A gallery was then dug to create a cellar, and destroyed the base of the silos. However, the upper parts remained. Look up when you visit the cellar, and you will see funny "alcoves": you are under the openings of the old silos!

Things to explore

As you walk

About

Who created the Blanquette de Limoux wine? 'The monks of Saint Hilaire', local people will declare. And who created the legend of the monks? 'We did', whisper the La Blanquette wine producers. You can hear the story of this legend, as well as the true story of the development of this area, at the abbey.

Bubbles of imagination