Sunday, October 21, 2012

Silvacane Abbey, one of the Three Sisters of Provence

Do you remember that I detoured to visit Saint Saturnin-lès-Apt on the way to cousin Annick's house near Aix-en-Provence? On the road again after my visit, I drove through Apt, passed near Bonnieux and the pretty village of Lourmarin before I reached the Durance River just past Cadenet where I saw the sign for Silvacane Abbey.

I have never been to Silvacane Abbey but I know that Silvacane Abbey is one of the three Cistercian abbeys in Provence known as the "three sisters of Provence," the other two being Sénanque Abbey near Gordes and Le Thoronet Abbey in the Var.

Sénanque Abbey is one of the most beautiful spots in Provence and certainly one of the most frequently photographed sites judging by books, posters, and postcards we see. We drive past Sénanque Abbey on the way to and from Gordes and Roussillon or other villages in the Luberon and are struck by the beauty of the place every time.

We love to visit Sénanque Abbey in July when the lavender is in bloom like the picture below.

I figured that since I already detoured once today, I would take another detour and visit Silvacane Abbey. The Abbey was founded around 1144 as a daughter house of Morimond Abbey. In 1358 the Abbey was plundered by the army of Aubignan, and from then on its financial problems grew, until in 1443 the monks were forced to leave the Abbey.

The Abbey buildings fell into disrepair during the 17th and 18th centuries and were auctioned off during the French Revolution and became a farm. After the property had passed through a number of private hands, the Abbey was bought by the French government in 1846 and declared a historical monument, and restoration work initiated.

The Abbey church was constructed in predominantly Romanesque style with some Gothic elements on the highest part of the property between 1175 and 1230. The building, a basilica with transepts, has a pointed barrel vault, with a plain ribbed vault at the crossing, on substantial cruciform columns.

A view of the Abbey church from the rear of the property.

The Abbey church and other buildings are no longer used for religious purposes. They are open to the public and are sometimes used for cultural events, including the Piano Festival of La Roque-d'Anthéron, the Silvacane Festival of Vocal Music at Silvacane, and the Festival International de Quatuors à Cordes du Luberon.

Finished with my visit to Silvacane Abbey, I drove the last few kilometers to Annick's house. Someday when we are in the Var region, I hope we can visit Le Thoronet Abbey, the third abbey that comprises the "three sisters of Provence." It would be nice to see all three.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt. Have a great week.


  1. are right in my neighborhood!

  2. I had no idea that their were 'three sisters', but now I do. Thanks for another lovely tour :)

  3. We have been to all three sisters and I love Le Thoronet - definitely worth visiting next time you are here Michel. And then going for lunch chez Bruno in Lorgues - memorable!

  4. I just love that photo of the lavender, I can just breath in the perfume looking at it. We really need to come down in that direction there is so much to see. Keep well Diane

  5. Meredith - My cousin Annick lives just outside Rognes so we go there quite often.

    Sara - Thank you for the nice feedback. I am going to go see sister #3 next time we are in the Var.

    Barbara - Glad to hear it is worth the effort to go see Le Thoronet. Thanks for the recommendation for Chez Bruno.

    Diane - That picture of the Senanque Abbey is one of the most photographed sites in Provence. It is eerily beautiful in the fog on a winter morning and breath taking when the lavender is out.