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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fontfroide Abbaye dine where monks prayed

In the foothills of the Corbieres mountains of the Aude department in the South of France is the Abbaye Frontfroide, which was founded by Benedictine monks in 1093 but is now restored and in private ownership as a stunning venue for special occasions.

The cloister of Frontfroide Abbey is a lovely spot in the midst of several buildings

In the 1100s when it became linked to the Cisterian order, headquartered over the border in Spain, it became one of the wealthiest and most prominent of all the abbeys and was home for more than a hundred monks and lay brothers. When Pope Innocent II declared his crusade against the Cathar sect in 1208, Frontfroide became a center for the movement that concluded when the Cathars were wiped out. (Think catharsis) In the 1300s the Black Death claimed 75 percent of the abbey's occupants but its immense wealth allowed it to return to prominence and its building to be restored by the church. Thousands of acres around theabbey were farmed and used for the production of sacramental wine. And the cold spring, after which the Fontfroide Abbaye was named, provided plenty of water in times of drought
The abbey escaped destruction in the French revolution (1789) but began to fall into decay. Only seven monks still lived there at the end of the 19th century and in 1908 it was purchased at auction by the Fayet family, who carefully restored it over the years and continues to operate it.
Hour-long guided tours, that can be arranged in advance, are an ideal way to see the abbey and learn of its history. Be sure to step into the amazing rose garden, which was begun in 1990 and is passion of the current generation of the Fayet family owners.

The abbey contracts with a brewmaster to make its beer and its Corbiere wines continue to be made on the premises.

Our tour followed a perfect lunch in La Table de Frontfroide framed around a filet of duck breast and Corbieres wine along with a hoppy beer also produced at the abbey.
Members of a motorcoach tour tuck into lunch at La Table de Frontfroid,  the dining room crafted from a onetime stable at the 1,000 year old abbey.
Catch the Aug 12 Travel to learn a little more about the Cathars and how the beautiful hilltop city of Carcassonne looks like a fairytale yet  fits into that grim chapter of church history.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, amazing photos. Loved these articles!

August 12, 2012 at 11:45 PM 

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