The legacy of Charlemagne
Of very ancient origin, the Benedictine Abbey of Lagrasse became very prosperous and intellectually influential (from the Languedoc to Zaragoza) from the 10th Century onward. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it presents an exceptional ensemble of buildings dating back to different eras ranging from the 12th to the 18th Century, reminiscent of all the places and moments which are part of monastic life: the abbatial palace, the dormitories, the bakery, the cloister, etc.
Accessible from the west gallery, you can visit the lapidary storage room where both original artwork and casts can be found from the Master of Cabestany as well as a permanent exhibition dedicated to this mysterious 12th Century artist.
The Abbey’s legendary foundation is related in the Legend of Philoména. The emperor Charlemagne and Jesus Christ in person are told to have sanctified the church in the 8th Century. The original legend is thought to have been written by Philomène, chronicler of Charlemagne, the key figure in this chanson de geste. Nevertheless, it has been written in the 13th Century. The toponymy all around the village still bears the traces of the bearded emperor’s passage. You’ll access these historical sites by way of two way-marked hiking trails: the Pied de Charlemagne (Foot of Charlemagne)
which will allow you to admire the footprint of the emperor’s horse ... and Notre Dame du Carla (on the opposite bank of the Orbieu river!), where you’ll be led to the site where his majestic buttocks landed after being projected by his horse. You might want to follow the emperor’s example here, but in a gentler manner, and enjoy the peace and quiet close to the chapel.