Abbaye de Beaulieu-en-Rouergue, Centre of Contemporary Art


Abbaye de Beaulieu - Front Elevation
Abbaye de Beaulieu – Front Elevation

One of the advantages (well, the only one, actually) of having house guests is that you go out and do things you normally wouldn’t. I have often observed that when you live in a place, everyday life takes over. This is a pity, since there’s so much to see down here and there are many interesting places we still haven’t seen. This week, however, provided the opportunity to re-visit the Abbaye de Beaulieu, only a few kilometres away.

Beaulieu is a beautiful Cistercian Abbey, which is now a centre of contemporary art. As its name implies, it’s set in a lovely south-facing spot, sheltered by hills, with the River Seye babbling close by. I have written about it several times, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I have given the links to previous posts at the bottom of this one.

Chequered history

The abbey church, where the largest installations are displayed, is a model of Cistercian purity. It has been skilfully restored and it’s hard to believe that, after the Revolution, it was used as a cow byre. A separate exhibition of photos and documents in the Gothic cellier records the abbey’s history. It recounts the story of its listing as an historic monument in 1875 and its restoration from 1959.

During the 19th century, a daft plan was hatched to move the church, stone by stone, to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. Fortunately, Prosper Mérimée, inspector of historic monuments and novelist, scotched this scheme and the abbey remained intact.

Further restoration work remains to be carried out to some of the exterior buildings. These include a round pigeonnier on the other side of the road from the abbey and a small chapel beside the Seye, which contains wall paintings.


Exhibition in the church
Exhibition in the church

The current exhibition in the church, which runs all summer, displays wood carvings and photographs by Alain Volut. They are inspired by the Dogon people of Mali and celebrate the ancestral memory of Africa, cradle of humanity. The photographs are particularly haunting, depicting dignified people carrying on a traditional way of life. We noticed that they have enormous hands.

Group of ancestral Dogon carvings
Group of ancestral Dogon carvings
Dogon shrine
Dogon shrine

We wandered from the church into the cloistered courtyard, marvelled at how hot it was, and noticed two swarms of bees that had taken up residence in the walls of the church.

Bees colonising a hole in the church wall
Bees colonising a hole in the church wall

The old, lay dormitory houses a smaller exhibition space. An Aveyronnais photographer, Jean Cazelles, is exhibiting his black and white photos until 6th July. He was brought up in the Décazeville area, where there was previously an open-cast coalmine, and photographs the former industrial installations. He does it so artistically that, for example, a pile of what is probably plastic sheeting looks like pleated silk. The woman at the desk told us that he works very early in the morning to take advantage of a certain light.

Beaulieu is a lovely, tranquil spot that is well worth a visit.

Abbaye de Beaulieu
Abbaye de Beaulieu

You might also like:

L’Abbaye de Beaulieu: A Hidden Gem
Original Exhibition at the Abbaye de Beaulieu
Invaders from Inner Space

Copyright © 2014 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. I love the Abbaye, don’t you? It’s hard to photograph, tho, to really show off its beauty. Interesting exhibit. I may have to put it on my already too full list of things to do this summer.!


    • It’s a lovely, tranquil spot. As you say, it’s hard to photograph. An aerial shot would probably do it justice best. Exhibition is worth a visit, although I must say my favourites were the little people last year – I’m sure you know the ones.


  2. Hello Vanessa… another delightful history and travel lesson, I always feel like I’m there with you! Thank you. I hope you are well, and enjoying life. No chance of us walking the Camino this year, but maybe next year I’ll venture to your part of the world to say hello! I don’t often chat here, but love reading your blogs, thanks for continuing to write…


    • I hope I’ll see you here next year – in reality! I have been very taken up with the publication of my novel – and all the other things that I have to keep going in the meantime – which greatly restricts the time I have for blog-hopping. Hope you are well and going from strength to strength – an inspiration to us all.


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