L’Abbaye de Silvacane (from the Latin Silvo Cana, meaning reed forest,) is the youngest of the 3 Cistercian abbeys of Provence, dating to about 1144, when the monastery was founded on a desolate marsh along the Durance River. The architecture is similar to her sister sites: Sénanque at Gordes, and Le Thoronet in the Var. There is harmonious regulation and order as instructed by St Benoît, so as to inspire austerity, simplicity, discipline and prayer. As a result, the play of light and shadow through the buildings and cloister offer a serene assurance of a peaceful eternity.
Unlike the tourist magnet of Sénanque, I have never encountered hoards of tourists in Silvacane. This may give you the incentive you need to sing something lovely in the marvelous acoustics, or sketch quietly on a stone pillar. Food isn’t served here, so don’t forget to pack a picnic.
Guillaume de la Roque donated part of his land, and the abbey received generous financial support of several titled families of the area. It was Bertrand des Baux who oversaw the edification of the church in 1175. In the course of the next century, the abbey experienced a spiritual and economic union that enabled them to found a daughter abbey in Valsainte near Apt in 1188. The decline of Silvacane began during the 13th century, due to a conflict with the abbey of Montmajour, natural catastrophes and the 100 Year War. Dissolution occurred with the Revolution, and the abbey was privatized for farming. The State reacquired the church in 1845, and the rest of the property in 1945, at which time it was declared an historic monument. l’Abbaye de Silvacane became part of the commune of La Roque-d’Anthéron on 1 January, 2008.
The abbey is located on the D561 about 25km from Aix. Take the autoroute north to exit 14, and follow the direction for Le-Puy-Ste-Reparade, but stay on the D561 for about 15km, and keep your eyes peeled for the small sign on the right. Or you can take the N7 toward Lambesc, and head toward Rogne. It’s all good; if you get lost, take a break at a winery.
Silvacane is open daily from the end of May through the end of September from 10h-18h; and everyday but Tuesday during the rest of the year from 10-13h and 14h-17h; closed 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec. There is a cost of admission, currently €7 (reduced €5, groups €, under age 12 are free.)
Guided visits (in French) are offered every Sunday from September through June at 14h30; daily through July and August at 10h30 and 16h. It is possible to reserve a guide with a group of at least 8 people. There is also an entertaining course for children, a ‘jeux de piste.’
Hang on to your ticket, because you are entitled to a reduced rate at le musée de géologie et d'ethnographie, le château de Lourmarin, le conservatoire des ocres à Roussillon, et les mines de Bruoux à Gargas.
Also, a combination ticket with le château des Baux de Provence :
13€ to visit 3 sites : l'abbaye de Silvacane, le musée de géologie et d'ethnographie, le château des Baux.
11€ pour la visite de l'abbaye et du château des Baux.
Silvacane is a participant in la carte PASS. Ask at the Tourist Office. >Découvrez ici les sites concernés.
EXPOSITIONS D'ART CONTEMPORAIN :
Contemporary works of art are displayed in Cistercian aesthetic. The program is listed here. : >cliquer ici
New this year: each concert of the Festival International de Piano beginning at 18h30 in Silvacane is preceded by a guided visit of the abbey 17h. Make your reservations through the bureau de Festival.
If you’re interested in renting the abbey, please Madame Pauvarel au 04 42 95 70 70 or > par email.