Rain, lovely rain and big fat black clouds canceled our outing today, which gives me a chance to try to organize some of the pictures I’ve taken during excursions in the countryside around Pézenas, Hérault, Languedoc-Rousillion, France … just in case, you’ve forgotten, where we are at the moment.
One little trip took us to one of the 100 most beautiful villages in France. Out of the 30 000 plus villages defining the French countryside over time, one hundred are selected as representatives of the unique and exceptional heritage of their regions. Our destination was a village called Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, inspiring a short, but lively debate in the car, as to dessert and desert associations. Frankly, this village is too remote, too austere, too closely linked to monks’ asceticism to inspire dreams of creamy concoctions.
In 804 Guilhem Duke of Aquitaine founded a Benedictine Abbey in the Gellone valley, right where the Verdus flows into the Hérault river. A gigantic cliff, the ‘Cirque de l’Infernet‘, towers over and cradles both the Abbey and village. Other geological formations like the Devil’s Bridge, the Giant’s Castle and the Small End of the World can all be found in close proximity. It is a forbidding world of rock and hidden mountain springs, equally as beautiful as it is difficult to negotiate.
on route to St-Guilhem-le-Désert


public parking under the Giant’s watchful eyes
the town square in the upper village
The village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is always teeming with tourists. Many of them are here to hike to those sacred places deep in the mountains, others following in the footsteps of pilgrims on the thousand-year-old Chemin de Saint Jacques to far away Santiago de Compostela, the traditional route to redemption in the South. The Abbey itself gained the immediate respect of Catholic population and church leaders alike, since soon-to-be-a-saint Guilhem dedicated the most precious reliquary to the Abbey, a piece of the Cross of Christ, originally given to Guilhem’s cousin Charlemagne (no less!) by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Only the neighboring bishop was a bit jealous, who can blame him. When Guilhem, who abdicated his titles and offices two years later and joint the community of monks in his monastery, was canonized a saint in 1066 by Pope Urbane II, the foot traffic in the Gellone valley really picked up. 
Our William was more than a saint, though. He had been such a strong ally to his cousin, such a steadfast leader and fighter against the invasion of Aquitaine by Hisham Al-Reda, second Umayyad Emir of Córdoba that he became a superhero. As early as the 11th century, he became the subject of a major heroic, medieval ballade called a geste named ‘Chanson de Guillaume‘.
Meanwhile, we looked around the village, enjoying the sights. 
very large (and popular) plane tree, planted in 1855
street of the end of the world
if you’re brave, you follow the arrow …
more town square
the very large, cut stone, medieval baptismal fond


not much left of the cloisters
The Abbaye de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert used to have extensive cloisters, which were largely destroyed during the many disagreements in either political or religious opinions in the region. What’s left of them was installed at ‘The Cloisters’ in New York City and can now be admired there.

One thought on “RAIN!!

  1. Diese ganze Gegend ist einfach phantastisch und Deine Bilder, wie immer, mehr als gelungen!!!
    Ja, wir hatten auch eine super Zeit dort. Egal, ob alte Gebäude oder, im Vergleich dazu, das Moderne. Thanks für die Erwähnung meiner Wenigkeit! :-)))
    Wir hatten heute nachmittag 27°C!, jetzt immer noch 24°C, mit Bettdecke zu warm, ohne zu kalt.
    Ich bin soweit ok. Weiterhin Spass für Euch, enjoy your Trip! Babsos y bab dkk


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