One of the largest Cistercian abbeys in France is the Abbaye de Fontfroide (see previous post here). Situated close to Narbonne in the Aude region, this well-preserved abbey contains more than 1,000 years of history. Every now and then, L’Abbaye de Fontfroide opens up more of the abbey for their many themed visits. I was very curious to discover the monastery’s private rooms, especially as these rooms are normally closed to the public.
Our guide explained how Gustave and Madeleine Fayet bought the abbey in 1908 after the last monks had abandoned it in 1901. Gustave was a wealthy landowner, businessman, heir to a considerable fortune, art collector and a painter himself. He was considered a dynamic man of the world. When he and his wife Madeleine bought the abbey, it was in a deplorable state. The couple took up the restoration immediately. Only to be finished more than ten years later.
To this day, the fourth generation of the Fayet family still looks after the continuous renovation started by their ancestors. The Cistercian Order attached great value to sober and austere decoration. Which wasn’t really Mr Fayet’s cup of tea. Although the main structure of the historical abbey hasn’t changed, the interior has had an eclectic makeover. The Fayets added colourful paintings, tapestries and tiles, fountains and statues with elaborate figures, bringing life back into the monastery.
After being told more about the history of the Abbaye de Fontfroide, our guide opened the door to the private rooms. And we entered a completely different world. From “Le Parloir” we walked into “Le Salon Vert”. This beautifully decorated salon used to be the kitchen during the Middle Ages. I especially liked the green colour of this room. In fact, it is almost the same green we have in our bedroom. So maybe I am an eclectic person just like Gustave Fayet…
We continued on our way to the dining room. Because of Mr Fayet’s connections with the art world, he loved inviting his artist friends. A big table was already set and I could vividly imagine all the great parties that must have been thrown in this very room. Via the children’s dining room, with a huge collection of beautiful plates on the wall, we entered the kitchen, which made me feel like I stepped back into the 19th century. Thanks to this guided visit, L’Abbaye de Fontfroide was brought to life for me. And it made me want to plan my next trip to this well-kept monument immediately. I’ve always wanted to hear a Gregorian Choir in such a history soaked place!