The Cistercian abbey of Sainte-Marie de Villelongue, now a private estate, is located in the commune of Saint-Martin-le-Vieil, between Carcassonne and Castelnaudary, just 15 km from your campsite in the Aude.
Today, it’s a ruined abbey, but still boasts a beautiful cloister, adorned with ornate capitals characteristic of the Languedoc Southern Gothic style.
Construction began in 1180 when the monk Guillaume received a donation from the Order of Citeaux.
It soon became powerful thanks to the support of Simon de Montfort, the lord at war with the Cathars, who rewarded the monks for their support in his crusade against the Albigensians by giving them a large amount of land and the village of Saint-Martin-Le-Vieil.
Thanks to its riches, the monks were able to embellish and enlarge it for two centuries.
But in the 14th century, with the plague raging in the region, the Abbey saw its last hours of glory and the poorly managed estate became impoverished.
During the French Revolution, the Abbey was partly saved and sold as national property to Guillaume Boussac, who transformed it into a farm, with the ruins on one side and the abbey dwelling transformed into a group of houses on the other. The complex was never reunited, and belonged to several owners who undertook work from 1916 onwards, the year the Abbey was listed as a Monument Historique.
Renowned for its magnificent ornate capitals detailing carvings of human or animal heads, the Abbey also boasts large Gothic windows, beautiful cross-arches and the remains of a rose window.
Today, the family who own the property organize concerts in the gardens during the summer season to bring this unique heritage to life.
In these gardens, you can enjoy the serenity of the surroundings: bird aviaries, water features, wickerwork and gourd gardens make up this natural area, where it’s good to stroll back in time to the distant past of the monks and their songs.
11170 Saint Martin le Viel