Abbaye de Fontfroide – history, architecture and gastronomy
The Fontfroide Abbaye is scenically located about 20 minutes drive from Le Flamant Rouge, and is well worth a visit.Here, the violent history of the Cathars combines with architecture, garden art and gastronomy.There are also several marked hiking trails. You can hike up the Fontfroid Massif and admire the monastery, nature and the Pyrenees.(trails closed July -Aug due to risk of forest fires).
The gardens and the courtyards of the monastery
Buy your entrance ticket to visit Fontfroide Abbaye, and you will gain access to the courtyards and the various gardens, including the Rosegarden with close to 2,500 different rose varieties!You can also walk in the many terraced gardens. Here, medicinal plants and spices were grown – and are still grown today.
In one of the old cellars you can taste the Fontfroides Corbières wines.It is grown both red (syrah, grenache, mourvèdre, merlot …) and white grapes (roussanne, vermentino, chardonnay, cincault ..) on the domaine.The red wines are wonderfully full and the whites are crispy.In addition, there is a good, sweet muscat wine.You can try all the wines and they are for sale on site.
Restaurant Table Fontfroide can be found on site.The dining room is housed in one of the monastery’s old stone barns, with an outdoor dining area directly adjacent.Here you get a three course gourmet lunch from 25 euros and up, wine not included.There are no “steaks and fries” here, but delicious gourmet food, carefully prepared from local ingredients.It’s crazy affordable, and the monastery is worth a visit just for this!Tables should be booked in advance.(+33 (0) 4 68 41 02 26)
L’abbaye de Fontfroide sees the light of day in 1093. The name comes from a source nearby, la Fons Frigidus, la Fontaine Froide, “the cold source”. In the abbaye lived and worked around 250 Cistercian monks. Thanks to donations, the abbaye became one of the richest in the region, with its 20,000 hectares of land.
But the abbaye has a violent history. In the 11th century, a different Christianity than Catholicism developed in southern France: the catarism. The Cathars were critical of the priests and hierarchy of Catholicism, and they were particularly ascetic and advocated a sort of “Christianity of origin.” Salvation would be achieved through the abandonment of all earthly possessions and pleasures. They were condemned by Pope Innocent III and in 1209 a crusade was launched against the Cathars.
During the 15th century, the King of France decides that all monasteries should belong to the crown. New castle-like buildings appear on the abbaye. Among other things, terraced gardens are being built, the large courtyard is being constructed … The few remaining monks forget their strict monastic promises and eat both meat and chocolate, and some days they even play billiards …!
With the French Revolution of 1789, all monastic life ends, and Abbaye de Fontfroide is donated to Narbonne’s Hospice in 1791.
In 1908 the couple Madeleine and Gustave Fayet buy the monastery at auction. Visionary Gustave Fayet was an artist and conservator, and renovated the monastery. Today it is his heirs who run Abbaye de Fontfroide with the same passion.
If you are interested in lithotherapy you will find about 10 minutes drive from Fontfroide Domaine de la source and the Jemmes shop where you can buy semi precious raw stones, polished stones and bracelets and silver jewelry.
If you need accommodation, please contact us at Le Flamant Rouge Guesthouse, only 20 min away!