The churches and abbeys of Languedoc Roussillon, south France
The churches and abbeys of Languedoc Roussillon, south of France, are really quite spectacular. In fact, the region hosts some of the most beautiful religious buildings in France, including the Abbey of Fontfroide in the Corbières region, The Priory of Serrabone and the Abbaye of St Martin in the foothills of the Pyrénés, and the grand Cathedrals at Narbonne and Mende.
Abbaye de Fontfroide
Founded in the 11th century in Languedoc Roussillon, south France, the abbey has been beautifully restored and houses a superb 13th century cloister of intricately formed gothic arches and columns. The abbey can only be seen on a 1-hour guided tour - which is a pity, as it can be a little tedious (especially when we went in the freeze of winter!) - but the beauty of the place makes it worthwhile. Entrance & tour €5.70.
Built in 1001, this beautiful abbey sits on a cliff half-way up Languedoc Roussillon's Pyrénées. It is only accessible by a 40-minute walk up the mountainside, and because the abbey is still in use by nuns and priests, you can only explore it on a silent, guided tour. The views are incredible, and the architecture of the place impressive. Entrance & tour €4.
Another of Languedoc Roussillon's beautiful religious monuments, again perched on a hill-top with sheer drops on most sides, the Priory of Serrabone is famous for its unusual design. It's cloistered gallery is very unorthodox, with features in pink marble and a curious inner cloister with a window-less nave. A botanical garden has been developed on the site to showcase the area's most interesting plants. Entrance €1.50.
Built in the 13th century as the seat of a powerful Languedoc Roussillon archbishop - the cathedral is a good example of gothic architecture, with its many flying buttresses and slim stained-glass windows.
The building was actually never finished. It sits next to the almost as impressive 'Archbishops Palace' which is also worth a visit - and just in front of a recently revealed and protected portion of the Roman 'Via Domitia' road.
The cathedral was built in 1368, on the initiative of Urbain V, pope in Avignon. It sits in the middle of this small but pretty Languedoc Roussillon town that feels very much like a tourist resort - especially in summer. The 14th century bridge is also impressive.