In the heart of the Montangnette, not far from Boulbon and Barbentane, you will find the Saint Michel de Frigolet Abbey, which takes its name from the Provençal word for thyme, the “ferigoule” which grows everywhere in those hills.
At first just a simple priory said to have been founded by the monks from Montmajour, it grew with the implantation of a chapter of Saint Augustine and had its apogee in the 12th century. From that period, the heart of the monastery, the cloisters, the Saint-Michel Church and the earlier Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame du Bon Remède, built in the 11th century, still remain.
Starting in the 15th century, the abbey was little by little abandoned. But in 1635 the Order of Saint Jerome, or Hieronymites, settled there and embellished the derelict priory. They added a chapter room and the adjoining halls with their magnificent stone vault. The Notre-Dame du Bon Remède Chapel was given its elaborate Baroque décor.
But the French Revolution put an end to all that and the abbey's buildings became property of the state.
Transformed into a boarding school in 1839, the Abbay housed the pupil and future poet Frédéric Mistral, and he himself was sometimes visited by his friend, the future writer Alphonse Daudet.
Closed two years later, the former priory was bought by the Reverend Father Edmond and occupied by the Premonstratensians. Pilgrims flocked there en masse and a richly decorated neo-Gothic church was built, englobing the Notre-Dame du Bon Remède Chapel. A neo-medieval rampart was also built – completely fortified with towers, crenellations, defence walls and machicolations!
On June 6, 1869, Pope Pious IX raise the rank of the priory of Frigolet to that of abbey. Despite some twists in fortune that saw the monks leave several times, the Premonstratensians succeeded in recovering the abbey in the 20th century and still reside there today.
Today, in addition to tours, the abbey welcomes people wishing to find peace and silence for stays of a maximum of 8 days.
We can't talk about the Frigolet Abbey without mentioning “the elixir of the reverend Père Gaucher” or the golden-green Frigolet liqueur made with the herbs from the Montagnette.
Alphonse Daudet, in his Letters from my Windmill, was inspired by a monk at the abbey, a master of the still, the brother Calixte Gastinel.
The true story of this liqueur differs a bit from Daudet's. Yes, Brother Gastinel distilled the liqueur at the abbey, sold under the name Norbertine, after the order's founder, Father Norbert. But around the end of the 19th century, a distillery in the nearby town of Châteaurenard acquired the distilling license and adopted the name given by Daudet.
That distillery still exists today.
The Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey
Decoration in the Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey
Vaults in the Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey
Chapel in the Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey
Abbaye Saint-Michel de Frigolet - 13150 Tarascon
+33 (0)4 90 95 70 07http://frigolet.fr