chapter  2
8 Pages

The Monastic Site

WithWhitney S. Stoddard

Monastic sites were selected for their isolated character. Private prayer and corporate worship seemed to demand physical withdrawal from secular life. The quest for the salvation of souls and the search beyond the human for the divine presence seemed to transpire best in a self-contained and self-sustained community. A further tortuous walk reveals the entire monastic complex nestled into the live rock and, at the same time, extending out over the gorge on a terrace supported by man-made buttresses. The dramatic mountainscape forms a magnificent frame for the irregularly placed buildings. Gradually a town grew up around the monastic complex. Blocky houses piled up to the monastery, dominated by its square western tower. The entire silhouette of the present town and abbey is echoed by the craggy hills on each side of the valley. In contrast to Saint-Martin-du-Canigou, the horizontal areas of the site allowed the monastic plan to follow a regular pattern.