Abbaye de Pierredon, Roman church, vineyard, olive plantation

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, many religious buildings were erected in the Alpilles, often close to a spring where the Romans had previously created a settlement. The Roman church of Pierredon, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, dates from this era. It was built on the roman "podium rotundum" (small round knoll) that gives Pierredon its name, from limestone quarried on-site.

The church originally belonged to the archbishop of Arles, but in 1205 he donated it to the community of monks established in Chalais (near Grenoble). These monks, the Chalaisiens, created their own order similar to the Cistercians. In the thirteenth century, they built an abbey, improved the land and began to farm the soil, exploit the forest and graze sheep and goats. Drawn to the Alpine solitude, they led a life of silence and prayer.

The Abbaye de Pierredon is a sister Abbaye of Boscodon, near Embrun along with five others in the region, including Valbonne near Grasse. The Chalaisien monks extended the church and built their monastery, of which the ruins are now integrated into the huge house. They received some donations and bought a mill and other land round about.

But violent conflicts erupted between the bishopric and the powers of the "Republic of Arles", founded by aristocrats who had grown rich from trade. The monks' projects were halted and the time of their prosperity came to an end.

In 1312, the abbey became a dependency of Boscodon but the Chalaisien monks order no longer existed.

The Sainte-Marie de Pierredon priory was deconsecrated in 1550 and probably bought by the Saint-Rémy de Provence local authorities, who would later sell it. From the eighteenth century, Pierredon became an independent priory which passed from owner to owner. The priors maintained the buildings and the church remained open to worshippers.

The French revolution left the estate untouched. Around 1800, all the buildings were unified with the building of an elegant façade, giving onto a courtyard behind magnificent wrought iron gates. A huge sheepfold runs along the western wall.

At the end of 1942, the property was bought for bee-keeping by a honey company. Although it was sold in 1951 the bees come back every year to pollinate the thyme and rosemary on the hills.

The painter Jean Martin-Roch, made Pierredon his home and set up his workshop there. With him and his wife, Pierredon opened up to art and conviviality.

A fire ravaged the estate in the summer of 1999 but the house was miraculously spared. In 2001, the new owner embarked on substantial works to renovate all the buildings and the surrounding land with a vineyard and olive plantation. Sainte-Marie de Pierredon entered a new era.

Men of God

Pierredon: living quarters for hermit monks

Good and evil times

A tumultuous history over the centuries

A place dedicated to religion

Pierredon long preserved its vocation

The modern era

The 2000s: the new face of Pierredon

The legacy of monastic life

Originally there was a chapel and a spring. Monks first moved in around 1205 and built an abbey.Today, the church is still there today and the spirit of the monks lingers on.

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