A must-see

article | Temps de Lecture5 min

One of the most beautiful cloisters in Provence

Croisement des galeries du cloître de l'abbaye avec décors sculptés représentant Saint Pierre et un abbé

If you think of the Middle Ages in terms of gargoyles and carved capitals, you'll be delighted by the cloister at Abbey of Montmajour.

An exceptional cloister

The architecture of the cloister

The word cloister comes from the Latin “claustrum”, itself from the verb “claudere” – “to close”. It initially referred to the enclosed area in which the monks lived and which was to be used solely by them. Later, it primarily described the square courtyard leading to key areas in the life of the community

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, this cloister is home to a unique decorative ensemble! And remember that in the Middle Ages, the décor was intended to both delight...and instruct !

galerie du cloître
galerie du cloître

© Geoffroy Mathieu / CMN

A decorated cloister...

Let’s start with the bas-reliefs . On either side of the refectory door, in the south gallery, stands a statue dating from the Romanesque era: they might be the count and countess of Provence, although some believe them to be King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. You be the judge! 

You mustn’t miss the recently restored pillar at the corner of the north and east galleries, showing St Peter holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven and abbot Guillaume de Bonnieux, his fingers raised in blessing. Naturally, the devil is underfoot !

Détail du cloître montrant Saint Pierre à gauche et un des abbés de l'abbaye.
Pilier d'angle du cloître montrant Saint Pierre et un abbé

© Geoffroy Mathieu / CMN

... to remind you of the right path

Consoles are architectural or decorative pieces, used here as supports for the traverse arches of the galleries. Always placed opposite each other, they follow an iconographic pattern based on the Christian bestiary  and other beasts of myth and legend

Come and see – there are dromedaries, a bear, and a billy goat. And if you’re not the sort to scare easily, dare to come face to face with the fearsome Tarasque, a creature that's half dragon, half tortoise, and whose mouth is the mouth of hell!

Console du cloître représentant le monstre de la tarasque
Console du cloître représentant le monstre de la tarasque

© Colombe Clier / CMN

Marvel at the 48 capitals

And you’re sure to be blown away by the 48 capitals at the top of the columns – like the consoles, they are based on ancient themes. Here in Montmajour, the inspiration is Corinthian, and much use is made of acanthus leaves in their decoration. 

They mainly feature plant iconography, as well as scenes from daily life and from religious texts – look for a monk being buried or the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. You’ll even find the Temptation of Christ if you try. 

See what you can find !

détail d'un des chapiteaux du cloître
Détail d'un des chapiteaux du cloître


The cloister's sculpted decor

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