Barge holidays in France are a fantastic way to become acquainted with this gorgeous country’s history. But there’s so much on offer it can be hard to know where to begin. Luckily, our expert team here at European Waterways has the experience and wherewithal to help you cultivate the cultural exploration of your dreams. One of our top choices right now is a visit to Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac, with its wonderfully preserved chapel and cloisters.
Join us as we climb aboard Rosa and get ready to explore the best church on display in the commune of Moissac.
Centuries of History & Legend
This abbey dates back to the middle of the seventh century and was originally a Cluniac and Benedictine monastery. It is known for the entrance’s impressive Romanesque sculpture (as well as architecture of the same style throughout the buildings), and some of its edifices are medieval.
Legend has it that it was founded by Clovis, a Frankish king, however there is no historical proof of this. In fact, all records document that Saint Didier, bishop of Cahors, was the one who established it. Regardless to whom it should be accredited, raids by the Norsemen from the north and the Moors from the west and south made its completion difficult.
Benedictine Life & Beyond
Once it had been finished, however, it had an exciting life. It saw its first golden age in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, when it was headed up by two well-known abbots, Dom Ansquitil and Dom Hunaud de Gavarret. This is also around the time when it accepted the Cluniac Reforms. Its second golden age occurred during the fifteenth century, when abbots Pierre and Antoine de Caraman introduced Gothic architecture in their building programme and oversaw additions in that style.
Despite once having been the centre of Benedictine life, all the monks left the abbey in 1626 when it became secularised and, in 1793, all monastic practices ceased due to the French Revolution. It was almost demolished in the mid-nineteenth century so that a railway track could be laid out in its place, but was saved when it was listed as an historic monument. In 1998, it became classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When it comes to barge holidays in France, a stop to Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac on our classic cruise to Gascony is a fantastic way to experience some of the best history, architecture and culture this fascinating country has to offer.