Video: The Medieval Village of Lagrasse

One of the most Beautiful Villages in France, the medieval village of Lagrasse was home to one of the most important abbeys in the south of France. Founded in the 7th century, after a charter ordered by the Frankish King Charlemagne, the Abbey of Sainte-Marie d’Orbieu (named after the river which flows through the village) was originally built in the Romanesque style. The abbey soon became very wealthy, thanks to several large donations from lords of the area starting around 779 and started to aquire lands, castles, priories and other assets. By the 12th century it ruled over a large territory encompassing the dioceses of Toulouse, Béziers and the County of Barcelona. In the early 13th century the Abbey made even more fortunes, in large due to bounties collected by crusaders during the Albigensian Crusades against the Cathars.

Its fortunes, however, began to decline during the 13th – 15th centuries during which it was reinforced and fortified to protect its riches from the numerous wars being fought, including the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion. The Abbey enjoyed a renaissance and received renovations, including a new cloister, under its penultimate abbot. The Abbey closed its doors for the last time during the French Revolution, after which it was put up for sale but never bought. In 2004 the Canons of the Mother of God moved into a portion of the abbey and still reside there today. The unoccupied area was purchased by the State of the Aude in 2007 and is currently undergoing restoration.

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