Fodor's Expert Review Abbaye de Montmajour
This magnificent Romanesque abbey looming over the marshlands north of Arles stands in partial ruin. Begun in the 10th century by a handful of Benedictine monks, the abbey grew according to an ambitious plan of church, crypt, and cloister and, under the management of worldly lay monks in the 17th century, became more sumptuous. When the Catholic church ejected those monks, they sacked the place, and what remained was eventually sold off as scrap. A 19th-century medieval revival spurred a partial restoration, but portions are still in ruins; what remains is a spare and beautiful piece of Romanesque architecture. The cloister rivals that of St-Trophime in Arles for its balance, elegance, and air of mystical peace: Van Gogh, drawn to its isolation, came often to the abbey to reflect, but the strong mistral winds kept him from painting there. The interior, renovated by contemporary architect Rudy Ricciotti, is used for world-class contemporary art exhibitions.