St Guilhem le Desert


Hugging the western banks of the Gorges de l'Herault in Languedoc, is the stunning village of St-Guilhem-le-Desert. The ancient village of St Guilhem, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, is nestled amongst stunning Languedoc scenary. St Guilhem is regarded as one of the prettiest villages in France and has been attracting visitors across the South of France for centuries  St Guilhem le Desesrt grew up around the eleventh-century abbey of Gellone situated at the upper end of the village (free entry, 8.00-12.00 and 14.30-18.30). The abbey was founded by Charlemagne's counsellor Guilhem, who returned to Languedoc from Rome in 800 AD with three pieces of wood, purportedly remnants of the Cross. The following centuries saw St Guilhem and the monastery thrive as a pilgramage destination, as well as a stopping off point to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The church is the only surviving part of the powerful monastic house that existed here from the eigth to sixteenth centuries. Inside the impressive church is the casket holding the remains of Guilhem (who was canonised after his death). From the church you can climb down to the crypt (dating from eigth century) as well as the ruined cloister, parts of which are still in place.