The Abbey of St. Mary of Lagrasse (French: Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Lagrasse or Abbaye Sainte-Marie-d'Orbieu) is a Romanesque Benedictine abbey in Lagrasse, southern France, whose origins date to the 7th century. It is located in Languedoc, near the Corbières massif, c. 35 km from Carcassonne.
Despite a legend attributing its creation to Charlemagne, the monastic community was founded in the 7th century by the abbot of Narbonne, Nimphridius, who adopted the Benedictine rule. It was elevated to the rank of abbey in 779 and enriched quickly thanks to donation from lords from the neighbourhood and the county of Barcelona, acquiring lands, castles, priories and other assets. During the 12th century it ruled over a large territory encompassing the dioceses of Toulouse and Béziers and the county of Urgell.
It however started to decline during the 13th-15th centuries, when it was reinforced and fortified due to the numerous wars. In the 16th century a bell tower was begun, remaining unfinished after the death of its commissioner, Philippe de Lévis, in 1537. The abbey lived a period of renovation under its second last abbot, Armand Bazin de Bezons, receiving for example a new cloister.
Canons Regular of the Mother of God
The community of Canons Regular of the Mother of God moved into Lagrasse in 2004. The community, the majority of whom are priests, live in common under the Rule of St. Augustine, and dedicate their lives to the liturgy, which they celebrate in the 1962 extraordinary form of the Roman Rite and to evangelization. Common life, contemplative life, and apostolic life form the three facets of their charism.
The canons have begun the massive restoration work necessary to repair the abbey so that it may function as it did in its prime.
The oldest part of the abbey is first abbot house, including a small cloister whose columns' capitals feature scenes of the Luxury. The upper gallery leads to the abbey chapel, dating to the 13th century and with decorated walls.
The Romanesque church was built in the 11th century, with a single nave ending in a presbytery, with a transept and three small apses. There are a new church and a new abbot palace (18th century). Restoration works in the cloister (also from the 18th century) have found remains of an ancient Romanesque portal with a marble sculpted arch, attributed to the Master of Cabestany.
The bell tower has an octagonal plan, with a total height of 40 meters. The monk's dormitory features an ogival vault in timber framework.
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- Page at General Council of Aude's website (French) (English)