In the French department of Gard, the listed Carthusian monastery of Valbonne
and its growing estate founded in 1204
Uzès, GARD languedoc-roussillon 30700 FR


In the Languedoc region, between the Cèze and Ardèche Valleys and their tourist sites, to the north-east of the French department of Gard, in the heart of the lush Valbonne forest.
The A7 motorway is 15 minutes away. Montélimar with its TGV train station putting Paris just 2 hours away is some 40 minutes away.
Avignon and Nîmes are an hour away by road; Uzès is 40 minutes away.


Taking up a small, 43 ha valley which constitutes its forest and vineyard, the Carthusian monastery of Valbonne is a vast property complex, the buildings of which are essentially grouped around 2 courtyards and 2 cloisters in accordance with their original purpose. Founded in 1203 but partially rebuilt and redesigned in the 17th century following the damage caused by the French Wars of Religion, modified and completed in line with its successive uses, the appearance of the monastery nevertheless still resembles its original contours. It was classified as a French historic monument in 1959 and 1974. Although its initial vocation as a place of worship and spirituality is now over, the farm estate has, however, been developed predominantly as a vineyard. At the same time, it is open to the general public for visits and is also part of a hotel and catering activity.

The occupation of what was until then a small, anonymous valley in the heart of a dense forest over one thousand years old began in the 11th century with the construction of a convent for Benedictine nuns. Our-Lady-of-Bondilhon, built in a forest and isolated, became unsafe and was abandoned at the end of the 12th century, having been occupied by the nuns for two centuries. The Bishop of Uzès of the time, Guilhem-de-Vénéjan, worrying about the Cathar heresy spreading amongst the estates belonging to the Count of Toulouse, appealed to the order of Carthusian monks and gave them permission to construct a new monastery in place of the deserted convent. The Order’s 41st house was thus founded on 10 February 1204. Having reclaimed and cleared the land, ten or so monks set up home there. This marshy valley, made fertile through the Carthusian monks’ work, then became “vallis bona” or Valbonne. Conflicts with the neighbouring priory of Saint-Pierre-de-Saint-Saturnin-du-Port in a first instance, followed by looting during the One Hundred Years War and, above all, devastation caused by the Wars of Religion did not spare the new Carthusian monastery. In 1585, it was destroyed, looted and burnt. Monks, sent from the head monastery, began rebuilding it as of 1593. The reconstruction of the Great Cloister and the Entrance Gateway was also started at this time. A new church was then built between 1770 and 1780. The French Revolution in 1789 put an end to the expansion of this community of Carthusian monks. The last father left Valbonne on 1 October 1790. Having become national property and deconsecrated as well as looted once again, Valbonne’s Carthusian monastery then fell into ruin. On 28 January 1836, Carthusian monks bought back the monastery. Restored and completed with new buildings, a community of monks following the Rule of Saint Bruno lived there until 1901. The abandoned building was once again bought at auction in 1926 by Pastor-Philadelphe-Delord who then founded a protestant association for helping victims of tropical diseases there; the ASVMT still owns the monastery.

The Gateway and the Entrance Courtyard

Wrought iron gates, bearing the symbol of the Carthusian monks guarded by an armed angel, open into the Carthusian monastery’s first courtyard; the latter being paved with cobble stones from the river. On the left is the Carthusian monks’ old hostel, a long, one-storey building that has been converted into a shop and restaurant with a wine cellar at the end. On the right is the perimeter wall, featuring two round towers at each end with a central, square, Renaissance-style tower built in 1634 under the priorate of Don-François-Laurent.
Monumental gates at the foot of the square tower provide access into the main courtyard.
Once fitted with a portcullis and a brattice with machicolation, these gates, together with the two corner towers fitted with loopholes, constituted the monastery’s defensive features.

The Main Courtyard

This enclosed courtyard, with outstanding natural acoustics, is also paved with cobble stones. It is bordered on the left-hand side by old workshops, the brothers’ cells above which have been converted into hotel bedrooms. On the right-hand side, it is bordered by the wine-making cellar which is still used for producing wine today. But it, above all, enhances the facade of the monastic church. This Baroque style church dating from the late 16th century has a richly ornate facade with a pediment above its doors featuring stone statues, acting as a reminder of its Marian consecration.

The Monastic Church and the Chapels

The Monastic Church: The church is accessed via heavy Baroque style doors. Its entrance is flanked on each side by two chapels known as the Chapels for Strangers. Once past these chapels, a marqueted partition wall separates the two sections of the nave, the brothers’ chancel and the fathers’ chancel. The 18th century stalls are the work of cabinetmakers from Lyon and feature raised as well as inlaid plant motifs in walnut, ebony, acajou and box woods. The capitals overlooking these stalls are covered with molten sulphur.
The Baroque style, polychrome marble altar is topped with a canopy with solomonic columns.
The hipped gable chancel is also covered with Italian marble.
The nave of the church with its dry stone vault featuring a complex rosette design was constructed at the end of the 18th century (1770-1780) during the priorate of Don-François-Baffier and is said to be the work of architect Franque-d'Avignon.

The former chapterhouse: This chapterhouse dates from the 13th century. Although extremely plain, it does however feature a cross-ribbed vault.

The Chapels for Strangers: Located on either side of the entrance are the Chapel of Sainte-Philomène and the Chapel of Saint-Joseph. These were reserved for passing pilgrims. Their purpose can only be worked out today because of their vaults. For instance, the Chapel of Sainte-Philomène has a cross-ribbed vault, featuring liernes or tertiary ribs and tiercerons or secondary arched diagonal ribs, and dates from the 15th century. Whilst the Chapel of Saint-Joseph, which dates from the 17th century, has a plain crossed-ribbed vault.

The Chapel of Compassion: Dating from the 18th century, this chapel has a Baroque style altar topped with a pietà.

The Chapel for Families: This chapel dates from the late 18th century. The marble altar shows Mary arriving at her cousin Elizabeth’s.

The Chapel of Sainte Madeleine: A standard-bearing lamb is sculpted on the crossing of the ribs. Above the recess containing the statue, a Camargue cross acts as a reminder of this saint’s history.

The Chapel of Relics: Built in 1712, this chapel was restored in 1870. The wooden altar is in shape of a tomb. It was created to pay tribute to the sacrifice of the church martyrs during the French Revolution.

Although the church and its chapels are, generally speaking, still in a good state of preservation, restoration works would be advisable in order to revive the original splendour of the floors, wainscoting and renderings.

The Small Cloister

This is one of the oldest sections of the Carthusian monastery. Bearing witness to Provencal Romanesque art at the beginning of the 13th century, it was completed in 1219. The galleries are covered with semicircular barrel vaults, supported by cross springers descending on to corbelling. This cloister has the most developed shape of blends of the regional Romanesque and Gothic styles and it contains a central well that still has water.

The vestibule

A passageway between the two cloisters, the vestibule opens into the fathers’ refectory. Featuring a double, bilateral stringer stairway, it above all has a superb vault with a unique flattened dome. This outstanding technical feature is also said to be the work of architect Franque-d'Avignon.

The Great Cloister

Without doubt one of the biggest in Europe, this cloister was started in the 17th century and took one century to complete. The gallery forms a vast, 118x55 m rectangle with a perimeter of approx. 350 m. It provides access to the 24 cells where the fathers lived. 84 large openings, fitted with 19th century metal frames containing window panes, illuminate this cloister with its groined arches.
Stone flagstones line the floor.

The Carthusian Monks’ cells

The 24 cells used by the Carthusian fathers resemble small houses with private gardens. They are laid out around, and can be accessed from, the Great Cloister. Each of the 24 small doors opens into an enclosed area spanning 180 m² and comprising an ambulatory, an oratory or study for working and praying, a workshop and a small garden. Although one of these cells has been restored and is open to the general public, the rest are the sections of the monastery that are most in need of restoration.

The large garden

Bordered by the Great Cloister’s gallery, the garden provides a comprehensive view of said gallery as well as the church with its varnished roof tiles. Each of the gallery’s vaults looks out over the garden which spans a surface area of 5,000 m² where the original design of its alleyways can still be clearly distinguished. Comprising a central ornamental pool with a fountain, the garden initially featured an irrigation system, the stone pipes of which are still in existence. Still planted with predominantly southern species, it is here, under a monumental cedar tree, that the Carthusian monks’ cemetery, discretely surrounded by low walls, is to be found.

The Chapel of Saint-Jean

Located a short distance away from the Carthusian monastery, surrounded by vines, is the chapel reconstructed from the former Bondilhon nuns’ convent which existed prior to the arrival of the Carthusian monks in this small valley. Although Romanesque in style, this chapel integrates Gothic style interior decor. Its current bell tower dates from 1870. Adorned with varnished tiles, it brings the roofs of the Carthusian monastery to mind. Even more recently, metal roofing was installed to prevent the degradation of its roof.

The farm estate

The property’s 42 ha of land is divided between a working vineyard and a forest area.
Spanning almost 18 hectares divided into plots which are predominantly located in the immediate vicinity of the buildings, the vineyard is essentially planted with Grenache and Syrah vine stocks as well as some Cinsault, Roussanne and Viognier. It is currently run as an ESAT, Établissement et Service d'Aide par le Travail (a French non-profit organisation which helps disabled persons in the workplace) in line with integrated farming principles. Having AOC Côtes-du-Rhône and Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages appellations, the vineyard currently produces 700 hl and has additional planting rights.

The forest estate: Set in the middle of Valbonne’s national forest which spans 1,080 ha of the mountain range of the same name, this private forest estate belonging to the monastery extends over almost 24 ha. This predominantly white oak forest is currently barely exploited and therefore awaits economic development.

The outbuildings

Adjoining the main buildings or standing apart, numerous outbuildings of all kinds complete the property.
For instance, a former caretaker’s cottage is to be found near to the arrival car park.
A recently-built house stands to the north-east of the estate.
A modern canteen, no longer in use, is located in the continuation of the currently operational hostel.
Numerous farm sheds and storage areas complete the farming facilities.

Our opinion

Founded in 1203 by Guilhem-de-Vénéjan, the Carthusian monastery of Valbonne charms its visitors with the splendour of its varnished tile roofs, the tranquillity of its cloisters and the bold architecture of the vaults in its monastic church.
This listed, majestic, French historic monument exuding serenity is both exuberant and discrete. Near to everything and yet hidden away, this building with its two cloisters, one of which is certainly one of the biggest ever built, now appears timeless.
Not only does it summarise a large period of history, it is also an expanding vineyard. It is an absolutely exceptional estate that defies the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
It is true that the monuments comprising this estate are in need of maintenance and restoration works but, faced with so many qualities and so much beauty, it is tempting to go against our principles by asserting that Valbonne’s Carthusian monastery just has to be seen.

Exclusive sale

5 500 000 €
Fees at the Vendor’s expense

See the fee rates

Reference 626632

Land registry surface area 42 ha
Main building surface area 13529 m2
Number of bedrooms +20

Aucune procédure en cours menée sur le fondement des articles 29-1 A et 29-1 de la loi n°65-557 du 10 juillet 1965 et de l’article L.615-6 du CCH


Ménélik Plojoux +33 1 42 84 80 85



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NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.

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