Located 15 minutes from Marseillan, Valmagne Abbey is one of the most precious treasures of the Hérault. Its architecture, its history and its particularities make it a site highly frequented by tourists, a destination not to be missed.
The building was founded in 1139. Classified as a historical monument, Valmagne is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful Cistercian abbeys in France, and also contains one of the oldest vineyards in the Languedoc.
It was in 1139, therefore, that the abbey stood proudly in the commune of Villveyrac, on the outskirts of Mèze and the other pearl of Languedoc-Roussillon, the Etang de Thau, with its future Port Marseillan housing complex. Valmagne was one of the richest Cistercian abbeys in France from the 12th to the 14th century.
Its particularities and notoriety are based on its vineyard, which has taken its place in the choir of the church, its organic vegetable garden, its two gardens, each as enchanting as the other, and its restaurant. In the cloister garden, famous for its fountain-washbasin with an elfin atmosphere, the Roses of Cîteaux, designed by the famous Delbard company in the Allier region, bloom, as well as groves of black bamboo. The medieval garden of Saint-Blaise, which borders the restaurant’s terrace, is home to the hortus – the vegetable garden – the herbularius – the paradise of medicinal or simple plants – and the monks’ cemetery. In the Middle Ages, these gardens were a source of food and medicine for the monks, while their flowers embellished the altars.
A guided tour of the abbey is highly recommended. It lasts about an hour and will reveal all the secrets of this religious and unusual place, as well as the history of the owner family, which is not lacking in spice. A self-guided tour can be easily and spontaneously arranged thanks to a very well commented educational tour or with the help of audio guides. Visiting Valmagne Abbey – inspiring and soothing – undeniably brings a deep inner well-being. The art of SlowLife is maximised here by the majesty of the dazzling architecture.
To end the visit with a lunch or dinner at the Abbaye’s wine restaurant is for me an obvious choice. The cuisine of this farmhouse inn is authentic, simple and gourmet, in order to respect the products which are chosen with the greatest care from local producers. The concept of the garden to the plate is de rigueur here. The fruit, vegetables and aromatic plants come from the organic vegetable garden and the medieval garden. The meat and cheese come from local producers, farmers and organic in short circuit. The experience is rounded off by the Abbey’s elegant and fruity organic wines. A digestive stroll along the path of the parks, at the gates of Port Marseillan, formerly Port Marseillan (whose main investor is Miguel Espada, a native of the area), could be an idyllic ending scenario.