St Guilhem Le Desert

St Guilhem le Desert, in the Herault department, north-west of Montpellier, clinging to the gorges of Verdus, is counted as one of les plus beaux villages de France. Founded in the 9th century when Guilhem, cousin of Charlemagne and governor of Aquitaine, decided to become a monk, the village grew up around his monastery, in which was kept a fragment of the True Cross.

The monastery was closed down during the Revolution, but the buildings remain, and are in daily use by the tiny population (250 inhabitants) and the many seasonal visitors. The refectory - the monks’ dining room - has been turned into a museum of local history, whilst the 11th century abbey church welcomes classical music concerts, and there is an organ recital each Wednesday.

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Once a year there is a celebration of the relic of the Cross, on the Sunday after the 3rd of May; there is also a theatre festival during the first week of August, and the village fills with visitors who have come for the conventional theatrical performances, or to listen to the many story-telling sessions.





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