The world is full of the beauty of the Catholic Church. From Bernini’s spiraling bronze baldacchino in Saint Peter’s and the Rose window in Notre Dame in Paris, to the thousands of remote bucolic village parishes and the towering facades of the great Cathedrals, there is beauty in the Catholic world nearly everywhere you look.

However one the most beautiful places on Earth is a Catholic monastery you likely have never heard of before. Notre Dame de Sénanque is a 12th-century Cistercian abbey in Vaucluse, Provence, France built in a gentle, sun-kissed value overflowing with vibrant seas of lavender.

The monastery has seen growth and decline and rebirth over the centuries; even so far as having been seized and sold to private citizens during the French Revolution. The site was repurchased in 1854 for a new community of Cistercian monks of the Immaculate Conception, under a rule less stringent than that of the Trappists. The community was expelled in 1903 and departed to the Order’s headquarters, Lérins Abbey on the island of St. Honorat, near Cannes. A small community returned in 1988 as a priory of Lérins. The monks who live at Sénanque today grow the lavender that lends to its beauty and tend honey bees for their livelihood.

After a few Chimays one night, I even tried to paint it. And did not do it justice…

If you want to experience the beauty of the place, it is possible for individuals to arrange to stay at the abbey for spiritual retreat or to visit on a planned tour.

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