Posted by: mdmusingsie | January 19, 2020

Saint Antoine L’Abbaye

On the other side of the mountains from Grenoble, back towards Lyon, atop a steep hill sits the Abbey of Saint Antoine (Anthony).  This was a hit and miss site when it came to openings.

The museum was closed, a few of the restaurants were open, most of the shops were closed or on lunch, but the church was open, so at least it wasn’t a complete ‘view from the outside’ as some of our other adventures had been.  We were caught out a bit by the French lunch hours and might have stayed longer if we had been able to get some simple fare like soup and bread at one of the restaurants, but they appeared to only be serving large dinner-style meals.  My friend said that simple soup or sandwich lunches, like you find all around Ireland, are quite rare in France.  They go for the big mid-day meal, which helps explain the lengthy lunch break.

It was a shame that more wasn’t open because there were a number of families with children visiting the site – probably looking for a way to keep the kids off their screens and from complaining about the inevitable boredom of school holidays.  A missed opportunity for the kids to learn a little history and maybe pick up a trinket or two in the shops.

The Abbey is a series of structures in a walled enclosure; some of the buildings exist as part of the wall, with the church at the far end overlooking the valley.

As we walked towards the entry gate it was apparent some type of restoration work was going on; however, it being a Saturday, none of the workers were about.  The dragon-scale-like multi-coloured roofs of the entry buildings were spectacular.  My camera, though, failed to pickup up the vibrant colours as well as I would have liked.

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Entry St. Antoine Abbey

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St. Antoine Abbey roof

The cathedral-sized church dominates the site, and that’s where we spent the majority of our time.  Reports vary, but construction began as early as the 11th century and continued into the 15th century.  It holds the relics of St. Anthony of Egypt, brought there in the 11th century, and are reported to have healing powers.  It started out as a Benedictine abbey and was transferred to the Antonines after they became a formal order in 1297.

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St. Antoine Abbey looking back towards entry

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St. Antoine Abbey church

Looking at the front of the church, I couldn’t help but wonder it something was missing at the top.  It looks abnormally square for a church, especially one with so obvious other Gothic influences.  It may have been modified at some point in the past – information in English is not always easy to find.

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St. Antoine Abbey Church

The Gothic exterior is quite impressive.  In the entry hall is a beautiful painted ceiling.  The lengthy nave is flanked on both sides by little chapels/shrines.  Some still bear signs of the original wall paintings, some house large religious paintings, and quite a few held statues in nooks and crannies overlooking the shrines.  It must have been quite impressive in its heyday.

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It’s a very interesting church with a lot of architecture and hidden gems around every corner.

A cast-iron cross stands outside the church entry near the wall that overlooks part of the town below.

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Cross outside St. Antoine Church

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View from St. Antoine church

Maybe it was winter; maybe they were under maintenance; but any which way, I wouldn’t have wanted to use the public toilets.  A little too much visibility for my genteel nature.

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St. Antoine Abbey public toilets

One of the houses between the Abbey and the car park had done a fine job making their courtyard festive for the holiday.

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