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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chartreuse de la Verne

Some visitors to Provence don’t need to chase a tan at the seaside, instead they like to check out the lesser known areas, explore the historical and cultural sites inland.

 These guests I take to La Chartreuse de la Verne, a Carthusian monastery tucked away in the Massif des Maures, one of the oldest and wildest sets of hills of the Var department. There’s no train to Collobrières, the nearest town and busses are very infrequent so the best way to get there is by car; cycling, I leave to the very fit.

 La Chartreuse de la Verne, 11 km from Collobrières is perched on a rocky headland completely isolated in amongst a thick hilly forest of pine, oak, cork and chestnut trees. The set of buildings mostly rebuilt during the 17th and 18th centuries are 155 m long, 85 m. wide with walls 425 m high was constructed in 1174 on the site of a pagan temple. This monastery had a turbulent past - plundered in 1174, wrecked by the Protestants during the religious wars and occupied by the Huguenots in 1577. After each of these destructions, the dedicated picked up the pieces and rebuilt. In 1790, after the French Revolution, the contents were sequestered and the monks had to abandon the monastery.
Looking around today at this imposing structure, and the beauty of the forest, it’s hard to imagine that there were at least three serious fires here -- one in the 13th century and the others n 1318 and 1721.

La Chartreuse was listed as a historic monument in 1921 and today about 30 sisters of the monastic order of Bethlehem live there.


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