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©Philippe Berthé

The marvellous Thoronet abbey

Visit Thoronet abbey, one of the most remarkable edifices built by the Cîteaux Order. This monastery epitomizes strength, simplicity and rigour and has inspired generations of architects.

You’ll be transported directly into the heart of the crowning glory of Cistercian abbeys

Built in wooded surroundings, the Abbaye du Thoronet is one of France’s so-called « Provençal sisters ».

The construction of the abbey – at the point the river meets a spring – began in 1160 and was only completed in 1230. Gradually frequented, in the 13th century it was home to around twenty monks and dozens of lay brothers. The abbey belongs to the Cistercian Order and strictly follows the Rule of Saint Benedict. In 1790, seven monks were still living there. However, it came under threat at the end of the 17th century, because parts of the abbey began to collapse and the general state of dilapidation meant restorations were urgently required. These began in 1841 with the support of Prosper Mérimée, inspector of historical monuments.

Architectural purity…

Don’t miss the opportunity to admire this unique example of architecture!

The world-famous architect Le Corbusier visited the abbey in 1953 and said « In the age of « raw concrete », we are blessed, welcomed and greeted along the way by such an admirable encounter ». Thoronet abbey is the purest expression of Cistercian art. You’ll see how the extreme simplicity and sobriety of the volumes dictated the monks’ communal life. The church is a model of Cistercian simplicity, in which the absence of decoration perfectly accentuates the purity of the forms.

…and exceptional acoustics!

Here, the monks’ spiritual life was punctuated by services that were magnified by the remarkable acoustics. The church benefits from acoustics with an echo lasting for between 11 and 14 seconds – explained by the hardness of the building stone and the sharp edges of the stones. We also think the builders may have left conduits in the pillars that add to the remarkable reverberation.

The Cistercian Order, an established tradition

Stroll through the cloister, refectory and dormitory to understand the Cistercian monks’ way of life.

The Cistercian Order traces its roots back to 1098, following the foundation of the monastery of Cîteaux by the monk Robert de Molesme. A few years later, Etienne Harding codified the Cistercian rule. Following this promulgation, Cîteaux established new monasteries at La Ferté, Pontigny, Morimond and Clairvaux. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux made this monastery the centre of the Cistercian Order from 1115 and 1153. He castigated the pomp of Cluny and reaffirmed the Rule of Saint Benedict. He then extolled the strict rigour of the order, in which the Cistercians were inspired only by manual work and prayer.

Practical information

Prices, opening times… find all the practical information you need to visit Le Thoronet Abbey here.

From 1 April to 30 September from 10 am to 6.30 pm.
From 1 October to 31 March from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.

1 January, 1 May, 1 November, 11 November and 25 December.
Times subject to change.

Adults: €8
Free for under 18s
Free for 18-25 year olds from the European Union.