Lagrass (Aude) - The Abbey of Santa-Marie
AS POWERFUL AS A KINGDOM
The first Benedictine monastery was founded in the late 8th century, located on the banks of the Corbièrese, on the banks of the Orbieu river. It benefited by major donations bequeathed during the Carolingian period, and it soon expanded, to become one of the most important monasteries of the region in the period between the 9th and 11th centuries; its landed properties including over a hundred churches and ten monasteries; in an area extending from Albi to Saragozza.
After the crusades against the Albigenisans (Catharists), in which Lagrasse often had an important political role, the abbey saw its period of greatest splendour at the end of the 13th century, with the Abbot Auger de Gogenx, responsible for initiating major expansion work.
The fortunes of Lagrasse declined after this, with an upturn in the 17th century, when the abbey was taken over by the congregation of Saint Maur. A new cloister and other convent buildings being added. Then followed a further period of slow decline until the French Revolution when the abbey was sold in two separate lots. This division still existing today: one half belonging to the town council and one to private individuals.
FROM CHAPEL TO BASTION
The most ancient part of Lagrasse consists in a Pre- Romanesque tower located next to the monk’s dormitory: the horseshoe arches being characteristic of the period. What remains of the Romanesque period (11th century) being a part of the transept, with three apses decorated with Lombard arches.
The period of the Great abbot Gogenx (13th century) left the following:
CRAFTSMEN AND ARTISTS
The delightful village of Lagrasse, located on the opposite bank of the Orbieu river, grew up around the great abbey. Traces of its ancient history still remaining today, such as an arched bridge dating back to the 12th century, which at one time was adorned with two towers. As well as numerous elegant facades of the civil buildings, which date back to the 14th century, such as the covered market and part of the fortifications and the Tour de Plaisance.
Lagrasse, a centre steeped in history and beauty has in recent years developed a distinct character of an artist’s village: featuring a whole host of shops and art galleries, providing a rich and high quality range of art works. Floral decorations blend with the old walls and streets, bringing a touch of life, and a cosmopolitan and slightly Bohemian air.