Abbeys and Chapels
Le Thoronet Abbey
Along with its ‘sister houses’ at Silvacane and Senanque, The Abbey of Le Thoronet is one of the “chef d’oeuvre” of Roman Provencal Art. The abbey is admired for the simplicity of it’s architecture which emits a sensation of serenity and oneness. The architecture of this Cistercian Abbey, built between 1160 and 1190, is one of the most purest examples of Roman architecture in Provence. It emits the most profound sensations of purity and serenity. The structure of the Church, monks’ dormitories and the cloisters were built in dry dressed stone, using ancient techniques.
Summer: Mon-Sat: 9:00-19:00; Sun: 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-19:00
Winter: Mon-Sat: 10:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00; Sun: 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-19:00h
Tel : 0494 60 43 90
Abbey de la Celle
A priory for women was built in the 4th century, becoming an abbey sometime along the way. In the 13th century the abbey was ceded to the Benedictines.
In the 17th century, morals were rather relaxed, and the abbey became a rendez-vous for the “galants”, gay (in the old meaning) people not overly concerned with moral correctness. There was a saying at the time that “you could only distinguish the religious people by the colors of their skirts”. In 1660, after the intervention of Mazarin and then Louis XIV, the religious residents moved to Aix and the convent closed its doors. In summer, evening concerts are held in the chapel of the Abbey.
All Year: Mon-Fri: 9:00-12:00 and 14:00-19:00
Summer: in addition, open on weekends
Tel : 0494 59 19 05
Chapelle de la Gayole
The pretty stone Chapelle Sainte-Marie de la Gayole is located in the Caramy valley 5 km west of La Celle, about half way to Tourve. It’s in the fields south of the RN7, beside the north-south GR99 hiking trail and the Aurelien Way.
This is probably the oldest religious sanctuary in the region, constructed in the 8th century. It’s also the source of the “Sarcophage de la Gayolle”, on display at the Musee du Pays Brignolais in Brignoles.
Basilica and royal convent of Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume
This is the biggest Gothic basilica of the South East of the France. Founded in XIII century by Charles of Anjou, it is considered to be the most beautiful example of Gothic architecture in Provence. The crypt contains the Ste Marie Madeleine relics, the third Christian tomb. Bagun as the same time as the basilica, the royal convent was largerly remodeled in the XVIIIth century. Today it is a hotel-restaurant which organizes cultural and musical events. Note to miss: Isnard Brothersí Organ, one of the most beautiful in the area. According to ancient Provencal tradition, Mary Magdalene, with her sister, Martha and brother, Lazarus, fled the first persecutions waged by the Jews on the early Christians and landed in Provence. They, along with other disciples, brought with them the words of Christ.
Mary Magdalene retired to the “Sainte-Baume” (Holy Grotto) and at her death was buried in Saint-Maximin. The fourth century Crypt containing the relics of the Saints of Provence was buried under in 716 to preserve it from profanation by the Saracens.
At the discovery of Saint Mary Magdalene’s tomb in 1279 by Charles, Prince of Salernes, eldest son of Hugues II, King of Jerusalem, of Sicily and Count of Provence, the site soon became an important pilgrimage center as was confirmed by Good King RenÈ on the occasion of the royal visit of Louis XI.
When the Dominicans built their monastery, Saint-Maximin also became a renowned seat of culture and learning. This land of hospitality, this sacred place has always been protected from invasions and sieges by its religious tradition which banned entry to any person bearing arms or having bellicose intentions. The army had no rights to the city. All this exceptional spirituality took concrete form in the construction of a basilica, and what a basilica!
The history of its construction is embellished with tales relating to the innumerable difficulties overcome by an autocratic Prior who died before the completion of the front entrance.
Tel : 0494 59 84 59 (Office de Tourisme)
Tel : 0494 86 55 66 (The Couvent Royal de Saint-Maximin Hotel, for info on concerts and festivals)
Website (external, Basilica and Convent) Website – The Couvent Royal de Saint-Maximin Hotel
Monastere St. Michel-du-Var
Russian orthodox monastery. When walking around visit the vault of Saint Seraphim de Sarov built of wood without a single nail or screw. You can buy liquor, cheese, sweets, monastery whine ñ all produced by the monks living in the monastery. You will be offered spiritual sessions, and various training courses take place regularly. You can also ask for a guided tour. A big service takes place every Sunday. There is a small hotel on the grounds run by the monks (le Chalet Saint Nicolas, 0494 73 73 64). The iconography workshops are held all year round (06 19 14 52 29).
A gem of provincial architecture originally built in XIth century, it underwent alterations in XVIth, XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. Its gardens were designed by Le NÙtre. It was owned by some illustrious characters including the Marquis de Grignan, Madame de SÈvignÈís son-in-low. There is a good view of the valley from the terrace. This is private residence, but visits are allowed.
Tel : 0494 04 43 95
Tel : 0498 05 22 05 (Office de Tourisme)
Castle of Vins-sur-Caramy
Beautiful Vins Castle overlooks the quiet Caramy’s valley. The famous provencal family De Garde built it at the beginning of the XVIth century to become their main residence. The castle is a witness to a transition period between a medieval fortress and the Renaissance’s refinement which gives it an unusual character. This monument was saved from ruins by a private owner. At the present time, the castle is devoted to the culture. In summer it hosts a music academy, and there are also concerts and music courses, both instrumental and singing.
Tel : 0494 72 50 40 (info on concerts and festivals, and tours of the castle)
Brignoles Area Museum
Local artefacts and accounts of daily life in Brignoles and Museum of fossils and minerals. Tel: 0494 69 45 18
House of bees
Living beehive behind glass, collection of old beehives, beekeeping equipment. Visit by appointment. Brignoles. Tel: 0494 59 07 67
Maison de l’Archeologie
Artifacts discovered in the Var. Le Val
Musee de la Figurine Historique
Museum of miniatures and ancient toys. Visit by appointment at the Mason de la Pierere. Le Val. Tel: 0494 37 02 21 or 22 (Office de Tourisme) >MusÈe du Santon. Le Val, Tel: 0494 86 48 78
Maison de l’olivier (Olive Tree House)
Rebuilding of an oil mill, exhibition of several objects in touch with the
olive cultivation. Le Val. Tel: 0494 37 02 21 or 22 (Office de Tourisme)
Musee de la Glace
History of the ice making : from the craft to the industry. Mazaugues, Tel: 0494 86 39 24