One of the most famous images of the lavender fields in Provence is the one below. If you were to buy a Provence themed calendar, there is no doubt in my mind this picture would be included. In fact, it would probably be on the cover.
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
The building in the picture is the Abbaye de Sénanque, founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks. Unlike the Abbaye de Montmajour which is now a secular building, the Abbaye de Sénanque is still inhabited by monks and is primarily a religious institution. Tourists are still allowed to visit but they must be accompanied by a guide. It is a good idea to check out the Abbaye de Sénanque’s website for visiting hours because they vary depending on the season. A word of warning: the website is only available in French.
When we visited in August, the famed lavender field in front of the abbey was already dead looking and very dry. You can see the rows of lavender in my pictures but they were not in bloom. It doesn’t matter too much though, because you still get a great view of the abbey.
The monks’ lives center around three things: prayer, reading the Bible, and work (which I assume means all the monks are assigned tasks they must complete in the abbey). The guide explained to us the monks’ daily schedule and showed us a few different rooms, including the abbey church, the old dormitory where all the monks slept together, the cloisters, and the chapter house.
It turns out the abbey’s status as a haven for Cistercian monks was interrupted a few times through history for various reasons, one being at one point there weren’t enough monks at the abbey to sustain a monastic community. Today, there are about 10 monks who reside at the abbey. They are responsible for tending the lavender field in front of the building. In turn, they sell the lavender extract to visitors, generating some income. The monks also make money off the ticket sales and honey they sell from some beehives they also tend to.
I only took pictures of the cloisters and the inner courtyard. There is a square pool in the middle along with a stone basin. I can’t remember what the basin was used for, though I know the guide told us. I think it had something to do with the monks washing themselves.
The rest of these pictures were taken by Uncle Marc. The very first picture of the empty looking room with the cross hanging on the wall was the old dormitory where all the monks used to sleep on their cots. From what I understand, the monks still all sleep together in the same room. Privacy is considered to be a luxury and the monks adhere to a very simple lifestyle. At least, I think that is the basis for the communal sleeping arrangements.
I hope they sleep on proper beds now though. I’m all for living a simple lifestyle. However, I do not believe that a comfortable mattress is “extravagant.” These guys only are allowed 7 hours of sleep a night and I think the first monk to get up for morning prayer is somewhere around 2 or 3 AM in the morning. I’m hoping they are allowed comfort when they sleep!
The rest of my uncle’s pictures show the abbey church, the cloisters, and me! I may not look thrilled in that picture, but it is because my uncle gave me no warning before he took it. I barely had time to form a smile.
And to my great surprise this sign was posted next to the abbey’s gift shop:
It’s a cute poster that says dogs are not allowed inside the abbey. French people usually bring their dogs everywhere with them so I thought the sign was funny.
Up next: the town of Gordes.
P.S. I’m now on Twitter! I’ve had an account for awhile but I never did anything with it because I was anti-Twitter for the longest time. I started following some of the bloggers I follow on Word Press. However, I wasn’t able to find all of you on so if you have Twitter, let me know your Twitter name! (Is that what it is called? Tweet name? Tweeter name?) My Twitter name is @AmelieSaysHola!