Lagrasse Abbey and Village
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The medieval little village of Lagrasse is a proud member of « Les Plus beaux Villages de France « organisation. It is situated in the department of Aude and is crossed by the little river l’Orbieu. The village’s name comes from the Occitan "grassa" that means fertile since it is surrounded by fertile vineyards and olive fields.
The village was formed around its Abbey. Later during the 13th century the newer fortified town was built on the other bank of the river l’Orbieu opposite from the Abbey.
During the Hundred Years War (1337- 1453) the fortifications of the town were rebuilt on the order of the Seneschal (the royal officer in charge of justice and control of the administration) of Carcassonne.
The town - population 615 - is now a charming web of little streets, squares and houses many of which date from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Benedictine Abbey of Saint Marie d’Orbieu situated on the left bank of the river l’Orbieu is listed as a Historic Monument since 1923. Through its elegance and refinement is one of the most prestigious in France.
It was founded during Charlemagne times at the end of the 8th century on the site of an older monastery.
During the 9th and 10th centuries the abbey spiritual and material power grew vastly. It became one of the most important abbeys of the South of France and its properties were extending from Languedoc up to Saragossa (Spain).
During the second half of the 12th century the abbey was enriched by the work of the Master de Cabestany whose distinctive style oeuvre is can still admired in a permanent exhibition in one of the halls.
During the crusade against the Cathars the abbot of Lagrasse, Benoit d’Alignan, plays a mediator role and is instrumental in the process of the acceptance of the King’s Louis VIII power over the cities of Beziers and Carcassonne.
Lagrasse Abbey reached its peak under the leadership of Abbot Auger de Gonex between 1279 and 1309 during which times most of the medieval parts of the abbey like the Saint Bartholomew chapel, the abbot dwelling and the bake room was built.
The Abbey ceased its existence as such at French Revolution when the small community of several monks was broken up.