A garden, a church, a land of memory – A timeless stroll ing a garden like no other!
Perched at a height of 600 m in the middle of a vast natural bowl which has been known as the « vallée de l’Absinthe » (wormwood valley) since high antiquity, the abbey watches over a land which has been sacred since Prehistoric times. On this sandstone spur, the Cistercian abbey of Valsaintes, inhabited by monks from XIIth century to the French Revolution, has an unusual garden as its neighbour (which was certified by the French Ministry of Culture in July 2011). The old dry-stone terraces host a rich spontaneous vegetation to which we have added a collection of 500 varieties of roses, bulbs, hardy perennials, annuals, plants suited to the dry soil, trees, shrubs and vegetables. Vegetable, mineral and wild life all live in harmony with Man and 100% natural gardening. When you come to see the garden, you can also visit the completely restored XVIIth century abbey church. Artefacts, such as the archaic solar calendar, show the passage of all those who have marked this historic place.
An itinerary helps you understand its sacred history.
The Dragon rock, guardian of the promontory of Boulinette, broods its eggs as watches over the valley of Valsaintes. This oppidum was inhabited during the Paleolithic era. The presence of a cave where the present church now stands must surely have been an encouragement to honour natural forces for these ancient civilisations. The many surrounding plateaus served as astronomy markers and a protohistoric solar calendar dedicated to the sun can still be seen carved into the rock. The quality of the rock and its siliceous soil make this unique site in Provence a place for going back to one’s roots and regaining vitality. Our prehistoric ancestors had the right idea: they built a sanctuary dedicated to fertility where the powers of the sun, the moon, the stars and the cosmos blended with the maternal energies of the goddess Earth. For them this was an area where they could reconnect with the fundamental principles of life. Nearer to our time, in XIIth century, Cistercian monks continued man’s saga on this same promontory by dedicating it to Our Lady, the Virgin Mother The Abbey of Valsaintes is a mysterious place where life draws its strength and where man can find, in complete freedom, the path which leads to his own heart.
The garden of the abbaye de Valsaintes blends into the authentic Haute-Provence setting where Cistercian monks dwelt from 12th century to the French Revolution. The former crop terraces perched at a height of 600 m have been planted with a collection of 500 varieties of roses highlighted by hardy perennials, shrubs and conifers suited to the climate and a wide collection of bulbs which flower from April to October according to the species. The rich spontaneous botanical wealth of this dry environment has been preserved in order to maintain a biodiversity where each living element has its uses.
The visitor is invited to discover the unusual layout of this garden and learn the natural maintenance methods used. The peaceful atmosphere of the place will leave its mark on those of you who are sensitive to the deep imprint of the history left by Man from Prehistoric times to nowadays. The Palaeolithic habitat, Celto-Ligurian cults and monastic life are all well-explained right through the visit of the garden which has you admiring the restoration of the abbey church that the association in charge of the management of the site carried out from 1996 to 2000.
From April 1st till November 1st
Schedules : In April and October 2.00pm to 6.00pm every day
From May 1st till September 30th : 10.30am to 7.00pm every day
– 7 €/pers., 3,5 € for youngers and students, free for – 12 years old
– 9 €/pers. for the garden and the Simiane-la-Rotonde medieval castle visit. 4,5 € 3,5 € for youngers and students
Guided tours for groups (15 pax min) all over the year on booking