Oh, the lavender fields. They’re so beautiful this time of year. You can’t tell because they’ve already been cut. Womp womp. This is an iconic site to photograph in the summertime when the lavender fields are in full bloom, usually July. Most people don’t realize that more times than not, it’s actually a lavender hybrid called lavandin. Although lavender has more has a higher yield of the essential oil and a stronger fragrance. Farmers will try to leave their fields growing for as long as possible to get the fullest yield from their harvest. But they know they must always cut before the August 15th storms that come to the region every year. Since it’s been an increasingly hot and dry summer, lavender and lavandin fields had to be cut early this year. And alas, we missed it by a week.
Historic to Iconic
Cistercian monks are an order founded in 1098 through the Benedictine monks after which Sénanque Abbey was founded in 1148. Keeping to the strict standards of the Order of which abbeys must not be built in towns, villages, or in rural houses, this narrow patch of land turns out to be the perfect spot for seclusion. The historic Abbaye Notre Dame de Sénanque is a 12th-century Cistercian monastery located in Gordes, France in the Provence region.
Nestled between two hillsides, it’s a quiet place in the Provençal valley where you can see beautiful tints and shades of purple dancing in the summer fields as the sun sets, leaving their pale shadows hovering in the mists of the morning. Although it would’ve been nice to see it myself, it just adds to the enchanted aura of Provence that draws people in – and is pulling me back.
You can enjoy the Romanesque architecture up close with a tour that brings you into the historic Cistercian heritage as you pass through an enclosure in the abbey where there are monks in continual prayer. Part of the rules of the Order is engaging in laboring with the hands which is why the monks here maintain an apiary that produces honey, an olive grove, and the beautiful lavandin fields that produce all the incredible products produced by lavandin oil. We didn’t go inside the abbey this time but there is an inner courtyard that looks nearly identical in construction to one in Saint-Remy.
Always look at maps and signs!
Sénanque Abbey does have a dress code posted on their sign but it was such an incredibly hot summer which pushed a heat wave through Europe just before we got there, I’m not sure how much they would enforce the tank top rule in that heat. But it’s always important to be mindful of the rules before you go. I had a cream-colored lace shawl with me just in case. I wore it as long as I could but it was so hot within minutes in the sun, I had to take it off. But we were so bummed about not seeing the lavender and we were on our way out of Provence that day so we didn’t go inside the abbey anyway. Just another reason to go back again!