Abbatiale de Saint Hilaire

Situated less than 6km from our guest house in Cathar country, the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Hilaire was built on the site of the chapel built at the request of Saint-Hilaire, the first bishop of Carcassonne, in the 6th century, which was buried in his oratory. In the 8th century, this chapel gave way to a church built by the monks who founded the abbey.

Initially placed under the name of Saint-Saturnin, or Saint-Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse, the abbey came under the patronage of Saint-Hilaire, when the sacred remains of his body were discovered in the abbey church on 22 February 970, at the request of Roger I, Count of Carcassonne and his wife Adelaide. They took the rule of Saint Benedict, became the great benefactors of the abbey and were buried around 1012, in the sanctuary of the abbey church.

From the 11th to the 13th centuries, the abbey took on considerable importance and influence throughout the region.The monastery of Saint-Hilaire suffered devastation at the hands of the Crusaders, which led to the restorations carried out by William, abbot from 1237 to 1260. The cloister was built under the abbot of Bertrand de Touron (1323-1340).

The second half of the 14th century was ravaged by the Black Death epidemic and great insecurity during the Hundred Years' War. The monastery developed and maintained its fortifications, which entailed additional expenses. In 1741, the property of the abbey was alienated or owned by private individuals. There were only 7 monks left. In 1748, the Bishop of Carcassonne issued a decree extinguishing and suppressing the cloistered offices and monastic squares of the abbey of Saint-Hilaire. The abbey church became the parish church in 1758. The present bell tower was erected in 1898.

It should be noted that the Blanquette de Limoux was invented in 1531 by the monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire. It is the oldest sparkling wine in the world.