Montmajour Abbey

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    Route de Fontvieille



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    Montmajour Abbey, an imposing building with a high, striking Romanesque silhouette, is one of the most elaborate constructions in Provence. It dates from the 13th century and was listed as a national Historic monument in 1840; it testifies to the wealth of the community and the mediaeval Renaissance of the church in Arles, as well as to the remarkable advances in architecture during that period. Montmajour Abbey had an impressive reputation, before spiritual laxity and material ruin required it to be brought back under control in the 17th century, when new buildings were also constructed. This expansion, which took place during a period of mediaeval Renaissance and economic revival, led to the community building a huge abbey complex. New constructions, including an Abbey church, a cloister and convert buildings, were added to a hypothetical original 11th century church; hypothetical because it is mentioned in texts, but no trace of it has been found. A defensive tower was added in the 14th century. This first monastery became extremely well-known, principally due to the pilgrimage of the relic of the Holy Cross, known as the ‘Pardon de Montmajour’. It was constantly being expanded and began to arouse a great deal of envy. In the 14th century, the Popes placed the Abbey under the commendatory system, which involved granting the revenues of the establishment to people outside the congregation, even laymen. This practice brought about a gradual decadence in monastic life; it was brought back under control in the early 17th century, on the initiative of the Archbishop of Arles. The Abbey’s architecture is clearly inspired by Antiquity and is also astonishingly advanced from a technical point of view. A high church with a single nave is superimposed onto a crypt with an ambulatory and radiating chapels, although the layout of each structure would appear to be incompatible. The first church’s central apse is in the shape of a four sided polygon and is simply decorated with three semi-domed windows. The structure stands adjacent to those buildings that are essential to monastic life, centred around the cloister, with its remarkable architecture and décor. The cloister forms a 26 m x 24 m rectangle, whose four galleries are set out around a small courtyard. Their façades are punctuated by a series of depressed arches which are stretched between the abutments. Only a few of the convent buildings remain today, including the chapter room, the refectory and the remains of the sleeping quarters and storeroom.

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    Full price : 7,5 € / Reduced price: 6 €

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