After your commitment to Sénanque Abbey, you’re now coming to the aid of Lagrasse Abbey; Why this commitment?
I often amuse myself by saying that I was touched by Lagrasse from my first visit during my The French people’s favorite village. This magnificent medieval village grew up near the abbey, under its protection, in an exceptional little valley in the Corbières; This site is impossible to resist;
Your heritage work is well known and recognized; What makes safeguarding religious heritage particularly important to you?
Heritage in general needs to be safeguarded! Religious heritage is both cultural and religious; It is rooted in tradition and spirituality; It tells the story of who we are and where we come from; A people that doesn’t know where it comes from doesn’t know where it’s going;
I believe that heritage in general is a way of reconciling ourselves with our history and our past; Heritage belongs to everyone, and should be a place of unity; As soon as they arrived in 2004, the canons opened the abbey to visitors, and particularly to the people of the village who were sad that they could no longer enter: they were right, it was the first thing to do! Heritage is a meeting place; The place creates a bond
An abbey like Lagrasse can’t not be open to visitors?
Absolutely! Religious heritage touches people’s hearts … even if they don’t realize it.
Wealth affects everyone, from the wealthy to those of more modest means; It’s important! To visit an abbey like Lagrasse is to travel through 1,000 years of history through architecture; Heritage thus becomes an easy, effortless gateway for everyone to art, history and culture in general; An abbey like Lagrasse is a formidable factor of cultural equality;
And it’s not just a factor of effective cultural equality! Heritage is also a factor of equality between rural and urban areas. This is all too often forgotten! Since 2004, for example, the restoration of Lagrasse Abbey has been carried out mainly by local companies, and the abbey attracts many tourists. The abbey gives a boost to the entire local rural economy;
With a religious community living within its walls, isn’t the abbey reserved for Christian tourism?
I really don’t think so! At Sénanque, Lagrasse and other religious buildings occupied by communities, when you introduce yourself you are not asked if you are a believer or not; Religious open their doors and welcome you; The opposite would be shocking and contrary to the history of abbeys: since the Middle Ages, abbeys have always been places of hospitality and even refuge;
I think that a community for an abbey is, on the contrary, a tremendous asset! The building is alive; We immediately understand its purpose, the reasons for its construction, its architecture, its decoration, and so on. The walls resonate differently, the silence speaks; It all makes sense!
Visit the abbey with a smiling young canon who loves his abbey and you’ll see… your visit, whether you’re a believer or not, will become an extraordinary experience that will make you love heritage!
What’s more, and this is a major addition, the community of canons is young … this is not so common in the Catholic Church. This youthfulness guarantees a lasting restoration! Contributing to the restoration of the abbey is an investment for future generations; The abbey’s stones will speak for us when we’re gone! That’s what heritage is all about;