Abbaye of Notre-Dame de Senanque
We visited this abbey on our 2004 trip to France.
The Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, located hear the town of Gordes in the South of France, was founded as a Cistercian monk community, that came from the Abbey of Mazan in the Vivarese area in 1148.
It was over 900 years ago that a movement for spiritual rebirth, started at the Abbey of Cîteaux in Burgundy. this spiritual rebirth became the basis for the foundation of more than 700 Cistercian monasteries across Europe all built in the Middle Ages.
Saint Bernard was the figurehead of the new monastic order. The Cistercian monks were united by simplicity and the observation of Saint Benedict's Rule (6th Century). These monasteries that were built tended to be in remote places such as Senanque.
It was consecrated in 1178, and flourished between the VIII and XIV centuries, when it grew to such an extent as to have four mills, seven granges and extensive land in Provence. The monastery was destroyed as the result of the wars of religion in 1544. And only in 1988 was another small order of monks established here, as the result of the re-birth of the vocations of parent Abbey of Lerins. Therefore re-establishing the connections with centuries of Cistercian tradition.
Originally up to 30 monks lived and slept at the Abbaye - fully clothed it was noted, and that is different that the origins of Abbaye Fontevraud. The monk's life was prayer. This started at 2:00 am and did not really stop until after last prayers well into the evening. The abbaye church is plain. No decorations here. Nothing was to distract the monks in their prayers. Only light, a symbol of God, was allowed the transcend the space.
The scriptorium is the one room with a fireplace. This is where the monks copied manuscripts. The conical fireplace would allow up-right tree trunks to be burnt.
The chapterhouse is where the monks listed to the Abbot read the Benedictine Rule. The acoustics of the room are excellent. This was the only room in the abbaye where talking was allowed.