Abbaye de Silvacane

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Silvacane Abbey
Facade of the abbey church
Facade of the abbey church
location FranceFrance France
Coordinates: 43 ° 42 '58 "  N , 5 ° 19' 45"  E Coordinates: 43 ° 42 '58 "  N , 5 ° 19' 45"  E
Serial number
according to Janauschek
founding year 1144
Year of dissolution /
around 1789
Mother monastery Morimond Monastery
Primary Abbey Morimond Monastery

Daughter monasteries

Valsainte Monastery (1188)

Abbey church, south side, watercolor, late 18th century

The former Abbaye de Silvacane is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region , in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, less than a kilometer from the south bank of the Durance , in the municipality of La Roque-d'Anthéron , about twenty kilometers south of Apt and about 25 kilometers northwest of Aix-en-Provence .

A Cistercian abbey

Citeaux Abbey in the 16th century
Robert de Molesme

Silvacane is an abbey of the Cistercian order , which in the year 1098 Cîteaux - south of Dijon - by Robert de Molesme (~ 1028-1111), also known as Robert of Citeaux, was founded a Benedictine abbot.

The members of this Benedictine reform order strictly followed the rules of St. Benedict of Nursia (~ 480-550). What is special about this religious community is the economic independence of the individual abbeys and their constitutional constitution. There is a kind of family bond between every “mother abbey” and its “daughters”, that is, their new foundations. The first branch houses of Cîteaux Abbey, especially its four most important ones: La Ferté , Pontigny , Clairvaux and Morimond , in turn produced numerous “daughters” that soon spanned the whole of Europe like a network.

A “ charter ” applies to all monasteries , in which the principles of the order are laid down. The abbots met, at least in the early days of the order, once a year for a general chapter in the Cîteaux monastery, to whose abbot they were subordinate.

Bernhard von Clairvaux - representation from a high medieval manuscript

The demand for a simple way of life and the renunciation of property is at the center of the life of the monks, because they encourage the internalization of faith. Bernhard von Clairvaux , the order's most famous abbot and theologian (~ 1090–1153), condemned everything that could distract the monk from his pursuit of God, including the sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows and wall hangings that adorned many medieval buildings. The only functions that have been assigned to art are the perfect design of shapes and volumes, as well as light and shadow effects. In principle, peace and nature provided the indispensable framework.

The Cistercian order expanded extremely quickly, and when the Silvacane Abbey was founded (around 1145) it already numbered around 330 monasteries.

The daily life of the Cistercians

The strictly ordered daily routine of the monks or nuns left little room for maneuver. Her main occupations were prayer, reading, physical labor, and rest, the work being done depending on the seasons and the needs of the abbey. In addition, almost every monk exercised a special office, such as prior, second prior, cantor, sexton, administrator, nurse, person in charge of the guest wing, porter, novice supervisor and others. However, there were never more than twenty monks living in Silvacane. Silence was one of the rules of the rule; the monks communicated with signs. The physical work, gardening, field work, or handicraft activities took four to six hours, while the rest of the day was spent praying and reading. The prayers were sung by the three choirs: “healthy monks”, “frail monks” and “novices”. After a six-hour night, or nine hours in winter, the monks were awakened for mass, for morning prayer. They then met for seven more hourly prayers during the day. Cistercians wear undyed woolen robes, which is why they are also called "white monks".


The Silvacane Abbey was founded shortly before 1145 by monks who came from Morimond , the fourth daughter house of Cîteaux. According to 19th century scholars, who relied on documents that no longer exist, the monastery was built on the site of an 11th century hermitage. Recently, parts of the foundations of a building older than the abbey were discovered on the west wall of the cloister, which supports this thesis.

Historical-religious background

Little is known about the circumstances under which the Cistercians settled in Silvacane. The motives of the nobility, whose support contributed significantly to the success of the order, were often of a political nature. This also seems to have been the case with Raimond des Baux, who was often mentioned as the founder of a monastery in later centuries. In 1145 Raimond had convinced other Provencal noble families to rebel together against the Count of Provence. Perhaps he was hoping for a political benefit from founding an abbey on the Durance river, that is, on a natural border between the county of Provence, a property of the House of Barcelona, ​​and the Marquis of Provence, which belonged to the House of Toulouse. In any case, it is certain that the Count of Provence took the abbey under his protection in 1150, until soon afterwards the lords of the neighboring castle La Roque and finally the noble families of Lambesc and Cadenet took over this role.

A generation later, i.e. 1181, Bertrand des Baux, the son of Raimond, is referred to by the monks of Silvacane in an entry on his death roll as fundator (founder). In this way, the generous donations with which Bertrand had presented the ecclesia (an expression that could describe both the church and the entire monastery complex) were probably honored. According to the deed, the ecclesia had not yet been completed at that time.

Choosing the location and solving the water problem

The monks of Morimond had carefully weighed the advantages and disadvantages before deciding on this clearly delineated property. It was on a thoroughfare that followed the course of the Durance, near La Roque Castle and a few hundred meters from Gontard, where a ferry was waiting to cross the Durance. The wish of the first Cistercians to shut themselves off from the world from which they had nothing to expect and which they had nothing to offer, except for their prayers, could not therefore be fully fulfilled here.

The name Silvacane - silva means "forest" and cana "reed" - could indicate that the area was swampy. However, more recent geomorphological studies show that the moisture from two sources did not cause health hazards. In addition, the Durance seldom flooded its banks on a scale that threatened the abbey. Such contradictions can be avoided if cana is understood as an adjective: canus, -a, -um means "gray". Silvacane would therefore be a place or founded in a place where there was a "gray forest". That would indicate olive trees , the color of which is described as gray-green, shiny silver and gray.

The monks managed to use the abundant spring water for their daily needs. Several drainage ditches, which came from the time before it was built, testify to the efforts to contain and divert the moisture. The southern spring fed a stream that was probably routed around the site so that it ran on the north side of the convent buildings under the latrines, as well as the cloister garden and the cloister fountain. In the south-west, a second source fed the "Hôtellerie" or guest wing and probably other facilities in the weir wing that were used for handicrafts or agriculture. The mill, of which no remains have survived, was believed to be to the north of the complex. There is a cistern to the northwest of the convent building.

The various builders had to take into account the special nature of the site, especially its height differences, in their planning. The floor of the abbey church already shows considerable height differences, which can be seen from the different heights of the thresholds of the three portals of the facade. The floor heights of the convent buildings north of the church also follow the natural slope of the site.

Dating the exam

The exact dating of the construction of the cloister buildings, from the church and the convent buildings, is extremely difficult. It is certain that the construction work began between 1145 and 1181, the year Bertrand des Baux died, and probably ended with the refectory towards the end of the 13th century. A document that has been preserved and signed “in front of the altar” shows that the sanctuary was vaulted and already contained an altar. Historians derived from stylistic elements that the church and the east wing of the convent must have been built between 1175 and 1220, the cloister in the 13th century and the refectory in the 14th century. These attempts at dating prove to be essentially correct, although they also need to be corrected in detail. Recent restoration work has revealed new clues about which no sources are known.

Two centuries of spiritual and economic charisma

A few years passed before the abbey received sufficient donations to really develop. But from 1170 it was undoubtedly an important economic and intellectual center of the region.

She looked after the church of Goiron in the mountainous hinterland of Chaîne des Côtes, but also Saint-Victor in Gontard, Saint-Etienne-de-Tertre in Saint-Estève-Janson and finally the parish church of La Roque. Most of the founders wished to be buried in the abbey, some even resting in the abbey church itself.

In 1188 the number of monks and the amount of donations increased so much that a daughter monastery could be founded. With the support of the Simiane family, who had already initiated the founding of Sénanque , the Valsainte monastery was created in the diocese of Apt .

Among other things, a document has been preserved about the donation of half of the forest between the Durance and the Château de Contard to the Saint-Victor monastery around 1050. In the 12th century, the forest was then given to Silvacane.

Silvacane also had five small farms (French: Grange) that were run by lay brothers . The farms are all on the left bank of the Durance, which the monastery owed to more or less generous donations from the lords of La'Roque, depending on the period. The Grange de Contard, which was built near the ferry and the church of Saint-Victor, lived mainly from growing vegetables, grapes and olives, while the larger Grange de La Borde, west of the abbey, was used for growing grain and raising animals. Little by little, the noble families of Cadenet, Mallemort and Lambesc transferred the swampy, but also fertile lands on the right bank of the river to the monastery and left it to the monks to take the necessary drainage measures. These properties formed three farms, the Grange Ferrage, near the present-day village of Cadenet, the Grange du Lauron, and the Grange des Segadas, which was built at the beginning of the 13th century and belonged to the municipality of Villelaure.

The status of lay brother, a member of the monastery who took only part of the vows, has existed since the 11th century. These brothers were generally of peasant origin and performed most of the material duties necessary for the practical and economic life of the monastery. Since the Cistercians were required to farm themselves, no farmer was allowed to work for them. As a result, the lay brothers spent most of their time in physical labor, especially in the homesteads, and did not attend all the prayers and masses. They also wore different robes than the monks and a long full beard. After numerous lay brothers had lived in the Cistercian monasteries in the first decades, their number decreased towards the end of the 13th century, so that the communities had to change their economic system. In Silvacane there is no trace of buildings specially designed for the lay brothers, neither living rooms, nor the usual alley on the west side of the cloister, or the special door in the aisle wall of the church adjacent to the cloister. Probably a building was made available to them here outside the actual monastery and there were plans to build a west wing, which however never came about.

There is still no plausible explanation for an event in the history of the monastery. In 1289, "black" monks, that is, Benedictines who did not follow the Cistercian reform, took the abbey and its homesteads from the Abbey of Montmajour (Bouches-du.Rhone). The Abbot of Silvacane offered help to the Count of Provence and King of Sicily, Charles II. He had a notary put together an inventory of all the monastery properties so that they could be returned to their rightful owners without loss.

The document received today was drawn up in October 1289 at the court of Aix-en-Provence and is a copy of several inventories that were made in June and August of this year. The lists of utensils, especially liturgical instruments, provide information about the daily life of the monks. Crosses, crooks and candlesticks "from Limoges", reliquary shrines, silver chalices and bowls, vestments made of linen and silk, more or less decorated albums, altar cloths and so on. The notary counted all the mattresses, blankets and pillows that were kept in the guest wing and in the abbot's bedroom. You can also find out details about the activities on the individual farms. La Borte's stock, for example, included draft oxen, horses, goats, sheep and tools for shearing.

With this document, Charles II, and shortly afterwards also the church, requested the abbot of Montmajour to evacuate the occupied monastery and release the monks held prisoner, which is proven not to have happened in October 1289. The conflict was only resolved in the course of the following year.

Until the beginning of the 14th century, the Silvacane monastery led a modest but prosperous existence. According to a notarial deed from 1213, at least 22 monks and 17 lay brothers lived there. Unfortunately, however, nothing is known about the spiritual and spiritual life of the community during this period.

The confusion of the 14th century and its consequences

Until the end of the 13th century, the monastery complex gradually expanded north of the church. However, there was obviously a lack of funds to build a west wing, which usually housed the storerooms as well as the rooms of the lay brothers.

At that time, the willingness to donate to the Cistercians and the number of novices gradually decreased throughout Europe. In addition, the dramatic events of the 14th century did not leave the Abbey of Silvacane unscathed. The extent to which the "Black Plague", which fell twice over the area around Aix-en-Provence between 1348 and the beginning of the 15th century, decimated the monastic community, can hardly be estimated. On the other hand, the effects of climate change are well known: when the Durance flooded, the water reached the refectory with increasing frequency. The monks also complained about the looting of local nobles and foreign mercenaries. The latter benefited from the political uncertainty caused by the conflicts between the supporters and the opponents of the Queen of Naples and Countess of Provence, I. Jeanne was created. Their policies put the county's independence at risk.

Another mishap befell the monastery in 1359 when Pierre de Samson, Abbot of Silvacane, was called to the Abbey of Chambons in the diocese of Viviers, taking books and other items with him. Despite the warnings from Rome, Silvacane did not manage to regain her property until 1367.

However, the abbey's impoverishment was not unstoppable, as the necessary restoration work could already be started in the second half of the 14th century thanks to generous donations. However, Silvacane never fully recovered economically from the catastrophes of the era in which the whole of Provence was badly affected and depopulated.

Abandonment of the Cistercian rule

In 1425 the Valsainte Abbey, which could no longer exist independently, was attached to Silvacane at the instigation of the General Chapter Cîteaux, although the mother abbey only had two or three monks. Antoine de Boniface, who was appointed abbot before 1420, turned to the Count of Provence and King of Sicily to restore the abbey's privileges. In 1433 Antoine was also administrator of the Le Thoronet monastery, which was practically abandoned. But if his efforts were in vain, he did not succeed in restoring these Cistercian monasteries.

In 1443 negotiations were initiated between the Cîteaux Abbey, the Chapter of Aix-en-Provence and the Pope about the withdrawal of the Silvacane monastery from the Cistercian order. In 1455 the abbey was attached to the chapter of the Aix Cathedral, to which it was subject until the French Revolution.

The abbey church became the parish church of the New Village of La Roque-d'Anthéon, founded in 1514 on the initiative of the nobleman Jean de Forbin with the consent of the Chapter of Aix. This process was typical of the era of resettlement in Provence, which began in 1460 and in which agreements were often made between peasants who were willing to settle and the aristocrats. At that time, numerous immigrants from the Piémont came to the middle Durancetal, who soon converted to the Protestant faith and became victims of religious persecution. The fifty Provencal families that finally settled in La Roque-d'Anthéon in 1521 escaped the first wave of looting and murder that ravaged their area in 1545. From 1570 Silvacane was sacked by Protestants and Catholics one after the other. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the old "Hôtellerie" had been taken before it burned down completely in the 16th century.

In the 17th and 18th centuries only the church was restored and the stones from the other buildings were partly used by the villagers for their own purposes. In 1742, the villagers managed to have their new village church become their parish church. A hermit is said to have lived in Silvacane until the Revolution (1789).

West side of the abbey, watercolor, end of the 18th century, on the left ruin of the outbuilding

Abbey for sale

In 1790 Silvacane was declared state property, divided into parcels and auctioned off. A quarry owner showed interest, but luckily the property was eventually sold to a wealthy evangelical notary named Garcin, who leased the land to farmers.

West side of the abbey, watercolor from the end of the 18th century

Contractors wanted to demolish the church because they needed material for the construction of the canal towards Marseille and for a suspension bridge that was to cross the Durance at Cadenet. But the engineer de Pertuis, who oversaw the construction work on the canal, was against it, because “the population has grown together with this building as with their deepest religious convictions, and even if it is not returned to its original purpose, it would still be beautiful because of its beautiful Its proportions, its excellent state of preservation, its proximity to the large madder and mulberry plantations as well as water points are ideal as a factory and could thus become a new source of wealth for the entire region "

After the state had repeatedly requested repurchase from private sources, the architect Charles Questel was commissioned by the Monument Preservation Commission to determine the structural condition of the church; The owner refused to sell it, but by decree of King Louis-Philippe of May 9, 1845, it was expropriated and the purchase contract for the church was signed on February 2, 1846. On October 10th, the departmental representation demanded the purchase of “the cloister and several remarkable halls of the original structure” . At the meeting of the Monument Preservation Commission, the head of the authority and writer Prosper Mérimée spoke a powerful word: "I would prefer it if we prefer Sénanque".

Chapter house used as a stable, watercolor from the end of the 18th century

Renovation measures in the 19th and 20th centuries

The restoration of the church was delayed and in 1869 the architect Henri Révoil, working for the commission, discovered that one of the buttresses of the central nave had collapsed. In addition, the roof is covered by vegetation that has already caused considerable damage. He further complained: "When you walk through this venerable monastery with its impressive refectory and the elegant chapter house, it inevitably makes you sad that it partly serves as a cesspool or as a horse or pigsty and that extremely unfortunate changes have been made for it."

Five years later the detached stone slabs of the roofs were replaced by tiles, the cracks in the facade and the crossing were sealed and the small pillars of the ridge above the crossing were restored. In 1903 further repairs were made to the roofs of the church and the northern cloister gallery. Finally, in 1932, negotiations were initiated to buy the remaining abbey buildings, which were still owned by the Garcin family. The architect Jules Formigé urged the minister: "The refectory still serves as a rabbit hutch , the floor is raised in the cloister ..." Formigé had the armarium (book niche) exposed and the passage between the dormitory and the church broken up again.

On July 28, 1943, Silvacane was finally officially listed as a historical monument. Charles de Gaulle and the education minister Capitant signed the expropriation decree on February 3, 1945. However, the tenant, governess and heiress of the notary Garcin, Simonette Rossano, did not leave the property until five years later. The actual construction work could not begin until 1950.

Chief architect Paul Colas had the cloister cleared, the monks' rooms and the refectory drained, the floor of the east gallery sealed with a moisture-proof concrete base and then covered with stone slabs. Then the sleeping quarters on the upper floor of the east wing were cleared and all floors were covered with stone slabs, which were largely in place. In 1955, Colas began to repair the roofs of the monk's wing and the refectory.

Cola's successor, Jean Sommer, began soil surveys in 1960 in the area of ​​the cloister and in the immediate vicinity of the buildings. Some capitals and column bases came to light that he was able to use in the restoration of the northern cloister gallery. He also had the soil of the cloister courtyard removed to its original height and exposed the fountain basin and parts of its edge. At the same time, the calefactorium (warming room), the chapter house, the dormitory and finally the refectory were restored.


Silvacane, Fassaede u.  Longitudinal section of the abbey graphic 1843.jpg
Silvacane, floor plan of the exam, ground floor, hand sketch, 1.jpg

Approximate dimensions, excluding protrusions, measured from the drawing and extrapolated:


  • Overall length outside: 42.20 m
  • Outside width of the nave: 23.45 m
  • Inside width of the nave: 21.15 m
  • External length of transept: 32.80 m
  • Inner transept length: 30.65 m
  • Width of the choir / central nave inside: 8.75 m

Convention building:

  • Length of the east wing outside (from the transept gable): 38.20 m
  • Length of the refectory plus the width of the east wing outside: 36.65 m
  • Clear width of the cloister courtyard: 18.40 × 14.40 m
  • Clear width of the cloister gallery: 4.30 m
  • Internal dimensions of the calefactorium: 3.35 x 8.15 m
  • Internal dimensions of the refectory: 7.80 × 25.15 m

Outdoor facilities, additional structures

Silvacane, site plan, hand sketch.jpg

In addition to the cloister , every Cistercian abbey also had a number of other facilities that were essential for the daily, practically self-sufficient life of the religious community. The entire complex was enclosed by an extensive curtain wall. In Silvacane, this masonry came to light during the archaeological excavations that took place in the 1980s under the direction of Michael Fixot and which Nathalie Molina has continued since 1993.

The medieval porch, which was exposed in the west from the facade of the church and in its axis, consisted of a passage with a gate, which was flanked by two lateral one-room wings and probably had an upper floor. The south wing had a smaller room on the south side. According to the Rule of St. Benedict, the porter's bedroom should be located directly at the monastery entrance. The intention to incorporate the entrance area architecturally into the facade design of the church was shown by Michel Fixot.

Today, one does not enter the monastery grounds more through the stem, but by a recently created ground-floor wing, in the southwest of the abbey on the foundations of medieval Hôtellerie was built (Guest Building). From the 13th century on, structural precautions were taken to be able to receive guests appropriately but separately for the cloister. A new, wide entrance was created in the south wall, roughly where the entrance is located today, which was used in addition to or instead of the old porch. From the inventory of the year 1289, in which the beds and blankets are also listed, one can partly recognize the intended purpose of the individual rooms of this exposed structure. The notary first crossed a bakery, then a "floor", an infirmary, a guest room (hospitium), possibly a nursing room (hospitalium) and even the abbot's bedroom. These details shed new light on the way of life of the Cistercians, who showed themselves to be far more open to the outside world than is generally assumed. Nevertheless, the Rule of St. Benedict contains very strict regulations on how to deal with guests in the monastery. The abbot does not eat his meals with the brothers, but with the guests in his private refectory. The contrast between the modest masonry of the Hôtellerie and the rest of the building indicates that the monastery’s financial resources were reaching their limits here.

In the immediate vicinity to the southwest of the church, a semi-underground cellar was built in the Middle Ages, but the monks did not use it for long. To the north of the long basin that was created in modern times, there must have been another tract used for the manual and agricultural work mentioned in 1289. Presumably it was also where the lay brothers 'apartments and the monks' kitchens were located.

The cemetery, of which some sarcophagi have survived, stretched in front of the facade of the church and its south side.

To the east of the abbey, a more recent wall surrounds the monastery garden, which has a steep slope. A passage in the east wing leads to this garden, in which the monks grew fruit and vegetables that only they were allowed to enter. The medieval layout of the garden can no longer be traced today. The irrigation was carried out by a spring that also fed the basin of the cloister fountain. In the Middle Ages, a spring outside the curtain wall was opened in the south-east, and a washing trough has recently been installed. This spring also fed the stream that ran around the monastery garden in the north, and then turned to the north opposite the refectory. It is believed that it flowed through under a latrine building that stood approximately opposite the calefactorium, in whose north wall a corresponding door provided a short connection.

Abbey church from the south
South side of SW

Abbey church

Outward appearance

The abbey church of Silvacane stands on the typical floor plan of the Cistercian churches in the form of an east-facing Latin cross , consisting of a three-aisled nave with a high central nave and two lower aisles, a broad transept at the same height as the central nave and a choir head whose height is clearly visible under that of the transept and is just closed in the east. The central, transept and choir have gable roofs with an inclination of about 30 degrees, the side aisles are covered by pent roofs with the same inclination. On the east side of the transept arms, two chapels with monopitch roofs are added at the same inclination.

This design, which are found in a number of Cistercian abbeys and as bernardisch called, according to St. Bernard of Clairvaux , although this important clerics issued no structural statements with security.

On the sides of the nave there are only three arched windows in the wall of the south aisle, of which the north is a little higher than the others. In the north wall of the central aisle, above the aisle roof in the area of ​​the third church bay, one can see the contours of a window arch, which comes from a former window that has been preserved inside the church, but through which no light can enter. It is possible that a light shaft was let into the roof of the aisle in front of this window, which was later closed again due to the problems that occurred.

Crossing tower from SO

In the gable wall of the southern arm of the transept, a group of three slender, arched windows is cut out about halfway up the wall, the walls of which are widened outwards. In the north gable wall opposite, a rather small circular window is cut out high above the ridge of the dormitory. In the two east walls of the transept arms, not far from the choir, a round arched window is cut out on each side, with wide walls. The lower edges of the windows are well below the pent roof ridge of the chapels. For this reason, a kind of light shaft was let in in front of each window in the roof, which reaches down to that point, but this often leads to drainage problems (see previous paragraph). In the east walls of the transept chapels, there is a small, slender, arched window with widened walls.

In the lower half of the eastern gable wall of the chancel head, a group of three slender, arched windows has been cut out, also with widened walls. Not far above is a circular ocular, also known as the ox's eye , whose walls are only simply graduated. It is decorated with a rosette-shaped tracery .

Since the 16th century, almost all roofs have gradually been covered with red hollow tiles in Roman format, also called monk-nun tiles, as a replacement for the original flat gray stone slabs, which are slightly covered on the eaves over wide eaves cornices made of double round bar profiles protrude, which are supported by cantilever consoles, the lower visible edges are rounded. These consoles are missing from the choir eaves. The verges of the nave and the choir are each designed similar to their eaves, namely from profiled cornice panels, in the nave on cantilever brackets, in the choir without them.

A stone roof turret rises above the crossing, with a square outline that is, however, significantly smaller than that of the crossing. Its original roof is missing and the former bell house has remained completely open on the top. Its east wall stands on the east wall of the transept. A triangular monopitch roof gusset adjoins its north and south walls, which takes on the inclination of the central nave roof and is delimited to the east by a verge and to the west by a diagonal valley as a transition into the transept roof. The spandrels are covered with smooth stone slabs that originally covered all roofs. The roof turret is surrounded by a cantilever profile around one meter higher than the pent roof connections. On top of it stand wide, arched blind arcades, the arched fields of which are supported by slender, arched twin arcades. All arcade arches are sharp-edged. The twin arches each stand in the middle together on a slender column, which is equipped with profiled spars and bases on angular plinths and with simply carved capitals . The outer twin arches stand on profiled transoms of the opening reveals.

Such “proud” stone constructions were actually not permitted by the general chapters in the 12th century , but a bell tower, sometimes also a bell wall, were essential to the monks, who were far from the church, to prayer, to mass, to the chapter and to be able to call at meals. For this reason, several Cistercian abbeys decided on the solution of erecting a wooden or, better, stone roof turret on the crossing. However, the elegant elegance of the architectural design of the wall openings could not be justified by any provision of the rule.

A spiral staircase leads to the church roofs and to the turret in the small stair tower, which is almost square in plan and which was built on the west side of the southern arm of the transept.

Strong buttresses are arranged on all vertical building edges, mostly reaching around the edge together, sometimes also separately in two directions, or only protruding in one direction. On the east side of the transept arms there are also buttresses as an extension of the partition walls that separate the chapels. On the west walls opposite there are the same pillars that stand on the outer walls of the aisles. All are steeply sloping outwards on the top. Not all of them end up well under the eaves. The side walls of the nave have no buttresses.

Facade by W

The facade of the abbey church closes off the nave to the west. It was built as the last component of the church and is surprisingly richly decorated, if you compare it with the simple walls of Sénanque and Le Thoronet . Some characteristic features of the Cistercian architecture cannot be overlooked, such as the buttresses that structure the facade and the interior three-aisled structure, but also the three portals that were used for liturgical purposes. In Silvacane, the north door was probably intended for lay brothers, the central main portal was open to high-ranking guests and the south gate to the deceased.

Facade, main portal

The middle wall section corresponds to the central nave and is delimited on both sides by particularly wide buttresses, the sloping top of which ends a good meter below the eaves of the central nave. The height of the wall is divided into three sections by its openings. The main portal of the church is a two-tier archivolt portal that is not entirely complete. Two archivolts made of semicircular curved rods in two correspondingly rounded, sharp-edged wall offsets stand on both sides on four simply shaped capitals with profiled transom profiles, which on both sides are a good part of the walls as a capital frieze. In the two lateral wall recesses, two slender columns are missing on each side, which carried the corresponding capitals and were probably equipped with bases and plinths. The setbacks and columns ended at the bottom on projecting plinths about a meter above the floor. The actual portal opening is rectangular and is covered by a stone lintel beam supported on both sides on recessed profiled brackets as high as the capitals with the fighters. A semicircular, smooth arched field jumps back slightly above it. In the middle of it, on a small rectangular elevation, there is a coat of arms with a standing lamb in side view. It is said to have been installed there when the Canons of Aix-en-Provence took over the abbey after 1455.

About halfway up the wall is a group of three slender, arched window openings, the middle of which is slightly higher than the other two. Their walls are greatly expanded outwards and have sharp setbacks at the edges.

Just above the central arch of the window, a large, circular ox-eye is recessed, the expanded walls of which are often and finely profiled. The windows have no tracery.

There were once decorative ceramic elements on the facade wall, some fragments of Muslim origin of which were excavated at the foot of this wall in 1993. These are the so-called bacini (kisses), rare decorative elements in the middle of a simple decoration. This is all the more unusual since this art form was widespread in the Mediterranean region, especially in Italy, at the time, but by no means in Provence. According to the specialists in medieval ceramic art, there are only four other buildings in the south of France that have been decorated with bacini, the “Maison Romane” in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Tarn et Garonne department) and the “Maison des Chevalliers” in Pont -Saint-Esprit, the “Palais du Juge Mage” in Peille, and the “Saint-Véran” church in Utelle (Alpes-Maritimes). In Silvacane, three imprints in the facade and probably a round recess in a corner gusset of the armarium testify to the existence of such decorative elements. In 1993, turquoise-colored glazed fragments of a North African style basin were discovered not far from it, which may also belong to a bacini.

A stone cross is erected on the gable ridge, which presumably does not date from the Middle Ages; it can be found in a different form in other Cistercian churches. The cross is a combination of a larger cross, which looks similar to that of the Order of Malta, and a central, smaller, wide circular ring. The four triangular arms, which taper towards the inside, do not end on the outside in two points that are created by triangular incisions, as is the case with the Maltese cross, but have straight ends to which still small triangles connect. So they end in three points.

Central nave to the choir

The side wall sections correspond to the side aisles and are again delimited by buttresses. The threshold of the north side portal is significantly lower than that of the main portal and that of the south portal is significantly higher. The side portals have smaller dimensions than the main portal, both in width and in height. Since they lack the optical magnification of an archivolt portal, they appear even smaller than the measured difference. Their reveals are sharp-edged. They are covered by stone lintel beams that rest on profiled consoles. Above that there are semicircular, smooth arched fields the width of the doors, which are enclosed by wedge arches. The side portals have almost no decorations.

About in the middle above the southern portal is a small round arched window with flared walls. There is also a similar window above the northern portal.

Interior of the abbey church

Silvacane, longitudinal section, graphic 1873.jpg
south aisle to the front
South. Aisle, graphic 1873

On the walls of the central nave, the various stages in the development of the structure can still be seen. Construction began in the east, because this way the choir could be consecrated and used before the church was completed. After erecting the pillars between the second and third yoke, construction work was interrupted for a while. In contrast to the previous yokes, the third yoke has one and two arcades with pointed arches, and in the northern partition of this yoke there is the above-mentioned window, which was later bricked up on the outside, which indicates that a second opening level over the Arcades was planned. In the south aisle, the window in the outer wall has a slightly different shape and height than that in the other two bays. The construction work continued towards the west and completed with the facade.

north aisle to the rear

The entire pointed barrel vault of the central nave, in keeping with the Provencal tradition, is divided into three yokes by powerfully stepped belt arches. The vault and arch approaches are marked by a multi-profiled cantilever profile, which is led around all the capitals as a warrior. The outer belt arch merges under its approaches into wall pillars of equal width, which between the partition arcades becomes one of the arms of the powerful cross pillars. The inner, narrower belt arch stands on the transom profiles, which cover the simply carved leaf capitals, and then merges into semicircular services, which end well above the arches of the partition arcades with simply carved consoles. These consoles are stepped fourfold on the north wall of the ship, the step edges of which are rounded. On the south wall, the consoles are three-sided on three sides. Such collecting elements for the vault loads, integrated high above the ground, are typical of the Cistercian architecture. The arcade arches of the partition walls, which are stepped on both sides with sharp edges, stand at the height of the arches on semicircular services, which are equipped with simply carved leaf capitals, profiled pillars and bases on angular pedestals up to one meter high.

Central nave, arcade south of the partition

The aisles are covered by single-hip pointed barrel vaults, which are divided by stepped belt arches in the same dimensions and spacing as in the central nave. Their apex lines run parallel to the partition wall about a meter. Therefore, the vaults and arches on the central nave side are only just below the crown height. As in the central nave, the vault and arch approaches are again marked by multi-profiled cantilever profiles. The semicircular services and their equipment correspond to those of the central nave. However, the services extend down to consoles that are around one meter high. The vaults and belt arches of the side aisles transfer the lateral thrust forces of the central nave vault to the outer walls of the aisles and their foundations, which do not even need external buttresses. In each yoke of the south aisle there is a round-arched, slender window in the middle with inwardly flared walls. The window in the third yoke is slightly higher than the other two and is also slightly higher.

Central nave, from crossing to the west wall

The partition between the floors of the ships is done by stone benches, which probably served as seating for the monks instead of the traditional wooden stalls. Monks, lay brothers and the "infirm" stayed in three separate areas. In the south aisle, partly under the arcade in yoke 2, one looks into an open tomb with stone cross bars, in which, according to documents from the 17th century, the fundator (founder) Bertrand des Baux is said to be buried with his wife Tiburge. The architect Formigé mentioned fragments of this tomb that were found during the renovation of the stone floor between 1930 and 1940.

The floor of the south aisle is four steps higher than that of the central aisle, which in turn is at the same height as that of the north aisle. In yoke three of the north aisle, a three-sided four-step staircase leads down to the north gallery of the cloister, onto a stair landing, from which one climbs down a few steps when facing to the left.

The west wall of the central nave has the same elevation as the ship. Half wall templates or half belt arches protrude in its corners. The wall openings correspond to those of the outer facade. The opening of the main portal is covered by a lintel flush with the wall, on which a smooth arched area the width of the door opening rests, which steps back a little. It is enclosed by a wedge arch flush with the wall. The three arched window openings are enclosed on all sides by widened walls. The central ox-eye shows the beginnings of a tracery in the form of an eight-pass that cannot be seen from the outside. It's probably incomplete. The corners of the west walls of the side aisles have the same half wall templates or belt arches as in the central nave. The door openings are immediately covered by smooth semicircular arched fields that recede somewhat. The arched windows are surrounded by widened walls.

Crossing and north transept arm
Transept and its chapels

The transept is a central connecting element through which one can get to the choir and the four transept chapels, which open with slightly pointed arcades in the east wall of the transept. In the latter, for example, separate masses were read, for example in memory of the donors. Like the central nave, the transept arms are covered with pointed barrel vaults. The cantilever profiles marking the vault and belt arches correspond to those of the central nave and are at the same height. The cross pillars of the crossing have almost the same services, capitals and transepts to the arcades of the transept arms as those to the central nave. However, with their approximately one meter high plinths, the services reach down to the floor. The arcade in the choir, the so-called triumphal arch, remains clearly below the others in the crossing, but is designed in the same way.

The crossing is covered with a ribbed vault. The technique of ribbed vaults, which was introduced in Provence at the end of the 12th century, should also be tried out in Silvacane, initially in the southern transept chapels, where the rib cross-sections consist of a large round bar, each accompanied by two sharp-edged profiles. then in the northern chapels and finally in the crossing. Most likely, a dome shape was initially planned, because the ribs made of a thicker round bar, which is accompanied by two slender ones, open without any console support between the pillar edges, where their ends are pointed. In the top of the vault of the crossing, the keystone has the shape of a cross, the arms of which are shaped like the round bars of the ribs. The vaulted vaults facing the nave and the transept arms have the same contour and height as their vaults. The fourth spandrel, facing the choir, has the same shape and height. The wall above the triumphal arch in the form of a crescent moon is however offset to the lower choir vault.

The ribs in the chapels stand on quarter-round services, which are flanked by sharp-edged wall templates, the services and edges are each crowned by three simply carved leaf capitals with multi-profiled combatant profiles. Above this, the pillar edges are continued on the walls as sharp-edged blind arcades. The cruciform keystones of the ribs are covered on the underside with small circular rosettes. The arms of the cross pillars between the chapel arcades with pointed round arches are only sharp-edged and do not have any services. The approaches of the arches are marked by simply carved leaf capital friezes with profiled fighters.

The gable walls of the transept arms are formed in the corners with the same blind arcades as in the west wall of the central nave. In the southern gable wall above half of the height there is the triple group of slender, arched windows, the middle of which is slightly higher, all with widened walls. In the west wall of the southern arm of the transept, a door is let into the stair tower, the spiral staircase of which leads to the roof surfaces and the roof turret. Over the arcades to the chapels flanking the choir, a round arched window with widened walls is cut out. In the gable wall of the north arm of the transept, a round-arched door leads into the immediately adjoining sacristy, to which one steps down a few steps. Next to the west wall of the transept arm, a nine-step wide staircase leads up to a round-arched door that leads into the monks' dormitory. The monks could use this access to get directly from their dormitory into the church to attend the night masses. Further up in the middle of the gable wall is a relatively small ox-eye with widened walls, the edge of which has irregular contours, which suggests an original tracery.

Choir from central nave
Choir and chancel

The floor of the chancel is three steps above that of the central nave. A sharpened barrel vaults the rectangular room. Their approach is marked as with the other vaults. The side walls are decorated with double-step blind arcades, the outer edges of which are slightly profiled and which take up almost the entire wall surface. The gable wall is bordered by a sharp-edged blind arcade. In the lower half of the wall there are three slender, arched windows with flared walls, the middle of which is slightly higher than the others. In the center of the upper half of the wall is a medium-sized ox-eye, which is surrounded by a simple sharp-edged stepped wedge-shaped edge. A tracery with a rosette, the eight pear-shaped leaves of which surround a circular center.

The stone altar plate on its massive base is probably the original. There are also some wall niches in which books, liturgical utensils or cloths could be deposited, as well as an incomplete piscina , a basin for liturgical ablution, with a drain to the outside. On the north wall there are remains of colored wall paintings from the 14th century, in which a row of monk faces and a central figure on a throne can be made out. This person is very likely to be the Virgin Mary, to whom all Cistercian churches were dedicated. On the same wall, on the far right, the remains of an artistically designed late Gothic double tabernacle can be seen, of which the base and the upper section with the canopy have been preserved.

Decor of the church

The stone decor elements are discreetly designed, because the monks should not be distracted from their prayers. The proportions are emphasized by stone beads or ribbons. The ball decoration of water plants on the capitals was one of the forms of decoration that were considered permissible. The impression of clear, perfect forms is undoubtedly also due to the care with which the stone blocks were worked and strung together.

Throughout the day, light falls through the windows, one after the other from the east, south and west sides, into the church, making attractive light and shadow effects visible on the components. The high wall openings, which are often arranged in groups of three and covered by rosette ooculi, create a gentle and calming atmosphere that invites you to meditate. The original glazing of the church windows, which probably consisted of colorless or lightly colored panes with natural oxides, is no longer preserved.

Convent building of the abbey

The convent buildings of the monastery essentially consist of the cloister of four galleries, which with its south gallery nestles at right angles from the outer wall of the north aisle and from the west wall of the north aisle arm, furthermore from the other lounge, dining and living areas Dormitories of the monastic community, which are closely grouped around the north and east side of the cloister.

Outward appearance

Kreuzganghof, SE corner

The cloister, which is slightly rectangular in plan, remains one-story on all sides today. Its galleries are almost the same width and are all covered by very flat pitched pent roofs at the same height. Which merge into one another at the cloister corners with diagonal ridges. The roofing consists of smooth stone slabs. The rain is collected by channels behind the “eaves” and drained into the courtyard via stone gargoyles.

At least above the east gallery there seems to have been an upper floor of the cloister at times. This is indicated by a long row of square holes, which are set well below the western eaves of the dormitory on the upper floor of the east wing of the convent at close intervals. The upper ends of rafters, which belonged to a wooden monopitch roof truss that covered the east gallery with a slope towards the courtyard, rested in these recesses. It is not known what the outer wall of this storey looked like. A wooden construction would be conceivable here. In this area, the ceiling of the first floor was designed horizontally on the top. The existence of this upper floor is additionally confirmed by a door in the west wall of the dormitory, the thresholds of which are at the height of today's monopitch roof ridge and to which multi-step stairs lead up on the inside.

Cloister courtyard, twin arcade restored

The walls of the galleries that surround the cloister courtyard, with their round-arched five- or six-part compact arcatures, the openings of which are separated by massive pillars, and their very high lintels, without any opening or decoration, make a mighty and defiant impression. In the sixties of the twentieth century, the floor of the courtyard was removed by a good half a meter to its original height. A longitudinal section through the abbey from 1843 shows the height of the ground at that time, which had grown up to the upper edge of the parapets.

The arched arcade openings are relatively wide compared to their height and have lost their interior decoration, apart from a few remains in the arch area. The arcade arches are predominantly surrounded by sharp-edged arch stones, the ends of which stand up on transom profiles. Some of the curved edges are broken up into round profiles. In two cases, the innards of the arcades were reconstructed from fragments found during archaeological excavations in 1960. The large arcades are structured by slender twin arcades with slightly pointed arches and bevelled edges in a smooth, recessed arch field, in which a small circular oculus is cut out in the middle. The two arches stand in the middle on columns arranged one behind the other, crowned with plant-carved twin capitals and joint profiled fighter plates and stand on two separate bases made of wide and narrow round profiles on angular plinths. The arches stand on the outside on slightly protruding, sharp-edged pillars, which are crowned by cantilever profiles at the arches. In each outer wall of the galleries an arcade is designed as a passage that extends down to the floor of the galleries. In the arch area of ​​these passages there is tracery in the form of a three-pass, which is not preserved in all cases.

Fragment of the well surround

The fountain (lavatorium) is located in the northwest corner of the cloister courtyard , half of which has been preserved on the outer parapet. It is decorated by a bas-relief of a circumferential Romanesque blind arch made of arches, capitals, columns and bases. The fountain formerly towering in the center of the fountain, which let the water from the south-east spring gush into the fountain, is no longer preserved. The traces of a surrounding well house, which were still recognizable at the beginning of the twentieth century, have also been lost. The fountain can be reached via the nearby passage in the north gallery on a short way to / from the refectory. The monks washed their hands there before meals. There, too, they took the water for the weekly ritual washing of feet (mandatum) , as well as for their daily body care and for the care of their tonsure . A similar fountain system that is still intact today can be found in the Abbey of Sainte-Marie de Valmagne .

To the outer parts of the cloister its quite high west wall is counted, which has no further openings apart from a west portal. Its arch is framed by arch stones, which in turn are enclosed by a narrow cantilever profile. A watercolor from the end of the 18th century shows the west wall of the cloister with a second door at the south end.

Cloister, transom profile on pillar
Exterior of the remaining convent buildings
East wing of NO, photo 1881

The east wing of the convent building is two-story along its entire length, the northern section of the calefactorium (warming room) has a cellar because of the natural slope, together with the fourth and third yoke of the refectory. The east wing is covered with a 20 degree pitched roof, which is covered with red monk and nun tiles. The eaves design corresponds to that of the church.

The east wall of the wing is supported by sturdy buttresses, the sloping tops of which are also covered and extend up to a meter below the eaves. The last three pillars in the north are somewhat larger. On the first floor on this side, a total of seven round-arched slender windows are left open, in the first and second yoke, from the gable wall of the northern transept arm, there are two particularly high, in the third yoke a low one, plus an access door from the monastery garden, and four in the yokes and five a low window each. On the upper floor there are a total of thirteen small windows, in the first three bays there are three each, in the fourth two plus a door, and in the fifth two windows. It is not clear why there was a door there. In the second yoke there is an opening the size of a door into the roof space above the vault at the top under the eaves.

North side, photo 1881

A total of nine such windows are left open on the west side of the upper floor, one in the first yoke, three in the second, four in the third, one and a door in the fourth, and none in the fifth. The already mentioned holes under the eaves are embedded in this wall, in which the rafters of an increase in the eastern cloister gallery presumably rested.

East wing, north wall and Refectory yoke 4

The north gable wall of the east wing closes off three storeys and is supported at the edges by buttresses that extend around the corner. At the very top, partly still in the gable triangle, a round arched window is cut out in the central axis, which illuminates the vaulted area of ​​the fifth yoke of the dormitory, and stands outside on a cantilever profile, which is led against the buttresses. Shortly below, three consoles jut out, which once supported the ridge purlin of a monopitch roof that covered a wooden porch that reached down to the center of the buttresses. A good bit further down, about at the height of the dormitory floor, there is a wall protrusion across the full width between the buttresses, in which ten to eleven wall slots are set on the top, which reach below the rising wall, at intervals of the usual beam layers. Not far below each slot there is a strong, multi-stepped cantilever bracket across the width of the slot. These precautions suggest that there was a wooden porch over the entire width of the wall up to the center of the buttresses, which consisted of a horizontal layer of beams, which was inserted across the wall into the aforementioned slots, the outer beam ends of which were supported by oblique pieces of beams the console stones were supported. On the outer end of the beam was a horizontal beam on which a kind of half-timbered wall stood on which the above-mentioned monopitch rafters rested. One can only speculate about the extension of the stem. It is unlikely to have come more than five feet. Access from the dormitory allowed an arched doorway in the western quarter of the wall width. The height section under the porch belongs to the ground floor, where the calefactorium is housed, a rectangular bag is cut out exactly under the door of the dormitory, the threshold of which marks the floor height of the warming room, in the left quarter of the wall there is a large rectangular window with a Renaissance cross. Below the openings on the ground floor, the basement walls are freely above the site, where windows and a door into the basement also open.

It is believed that one could get to the latrines (necessarium) via the door of the dormitory, which should have been built over the nearby stream. According to a source: “Behind the stairs to the dormitory, which one used during the day to go to the latrines or - in summer - to the afternoon rest ... The above-mentioned wooden porch could perhaps also have served as this latrine? But the window and the door in the wall below hardly allow this conclusion. Perhaps, however, stairs led down from this porch and from the door of the warming room to the latrines, which were arranged separately from the buildings? ”The same source says of the calefactorium:“ The door on the north side possibly led to latrines. ”

Usually the refectory of Cistercian monasteries was attached with its short side to the cloister gallery opposite the church at right angles to this gallery in order to have more space available for other halls. In Silvacane, however, the slope of the location required the builders to build the refectory directly with its entire southern long side to the north gallery of the cloister.

The refectory is covered by a gently sloping gable roof, in the same design as the east wing. It is one-story, but because of its height, from the outside it looks almost two-story.

The north side of the refectory is divided into four bays by four sweeping buttresses, which with their outward sloping upper sides end well below the eaves. In the first three bays, starting from the west, a medium-sized, slender, pointed-arched window is recessed in the center, in the fourth bay a circular ox-eye just below the eaves, but off-center to the west, which have all lost their original tracery. In this yoke there was a large arched window opening under the oculus, which can be seen in photos from the beginning of the twentieth century (see photos). The contours of a wedge arch can still be seen in the masonry. This probably former wall design suggests that it comes from the same era as the east wing. Further down, approximately at the level of the ground floor, the wall recedes in a segmented arc. A high arch field covers almost the entire width of the yoke with an ogival wall opening that opens up the cellar. Even wagons could drive in here to deposit material and supplies. The same opening is also under the third yoke of the refectory.

Refectory, west wall

The western gable wall is flanked by two buttresses the same size as those on the north side, on the north-western edge of the building the pillar points diagonally outwards. High up in the gable, a large, circular ox-eye dominates the axis of the building, the sharp-edged reveals of which are formed by arched stones. Its upper half is enclosed by a narrow cantilever profile, the apex and ends of which are marked by carved console stones. The tracery, which was probably renewed with the restoration, consists of a central six-pass which is surrounded by six three-pass. In the lower southern corner of the wall, just next to the buttress, you can see the contour of a former opening, in the form of an elongated, lying rectangle, which is defined as a hatch for the monks to eat in the dining room. It is believed that the kitchen for monks and lay brothers was in a separate building at a distance in front of the west side of the monastery. A watercolor from the end of the 18th century shows a werst view of the monastery, on which a multi-storey building ruin is shown in the left half of the picture, the west wall of which stands clearly in front of the western edge of the monastery. You can see this mainly from the different heights of the building bases. (see picture in the history section, abbey for sale)

Cloister, east gallery
Interior of the cloister
Cloister, corner console

The four galleries of the cloister, which surround the courtyard, are covered by barrel vaults, which are divided into three sections by belt arches, the cross-sections of which are divided into wide covings at the edges. Only in the northeast corner are the vaults separated by a diagonal belt arch across the corner. In the other cloister corners, rib vaults were preferred in the square fields. The vault and belt arch approaches are marked all around by a multi-level cantilever profile. The cantilever profile rises in an arc shape above the arches of the outer wall openings. The girders and cross ribs stand on simply carved leaf capitals. In the northwest corner you can guess a bird motif and in the southeast a grimace. These figurative elements had precise meanings that are no longer understood today.

Cloister, south gallery

The east cloister gallery was built at the same time as the monks' quarters, while the other three galleries are more recent. Over the centuries, the walls of the cloister were provided with inscriptions or monochrome drawings in many places. In the east wall there are five arched doors or passages and two arched window openings to the rooms of the monk's wing. At the southern end of this wall, the armarium (see below) opens with a twin arcade.

The south gallery or collatio gallery running parallel to the church was equipped with a stone bench, where the monks would read edifying texts in the evenings during Lent after the only light meal of the day. On this occasion, among other things, reading the work of Collartone by Jean Cassien (died 435) was recommended, which gave the meal and the gallery their name. A staircase leads from this gallery to a platform in the southeast corner and from there through a round arched door into the north aisle of the church.

Cloister, north gallery

The west gallery is a simple corridor, in the outer wall of which, opposite the north-western corner of the courtyard, a round-arched door leads to the outside, because there was no west wing of the convent building in Silvacane. In Cistercian monasteries, next to the pantry, which was planned according to the Benedictine floor plan in the west wing, the lay brothers' living area and their refectory were built and their sleeping quarters on the upper floor. But in Silvacane this area was probably outside of the enclosure. The same goes for the kitchen, which was shared by monks and lay brothers.

The entire length of the north gallery borders the monks' refectory. Two arched door openings not far from each other open into this at the west end of the gallery, and two arched wall niches further towards the center.

Cloister, remains of a twin column
Cloister, remains of twin arcades
Interior of the other convent buildings
East gallery, window to the chapter house
East wing

The east wing is also known as the “monks' wing”, since the main rooms of the monks were located here on both floors.

In the south-eastern corner of the cloister, in the west wall of the north arm of the transept, a small barrel-vaulted room opens up, the armarium ( medieval library ), in which, at least initially, the common stock of books was kept. In the inventory of 1289 "102 books of the most diverse sciences" were listed. There are still grooves on the walls for attaching the shelves. Missal books and the New Testament, which were used for masses and devotions, were in the church or the sacristy. Noteworthy is the corner gusset of the two arches that are drawn far down at the entrance to the armaium, which were probably created at the same time as the church facade, where there was probably also a ceramic element (bacini).

The barrel-vaulted room adjoining the gable of the north arm of the transept is the sacristy (vestiarium), which is connected to the transept through a door. The priest changed his clothes in it and took the cloths, books and objects needed for the liturgy from the niches. The pipe for the spring water, which feeds the fountain in the cloister, still crosses the sacristy today. A slim, high, arched window is left open in the east wall, an arched doorway to the cloister in the west wall and a similar one in the south wall, which leads directly into the church.

Chapter House, NW corner

This is followed by the slightly rectangular chapter house, which is accessed from the cloister in the center of the room via a round arched doorway, to which a four-step staircase leads down. This difference in height underlines the intimate atmosphere of the hall. In it the monks met every morning to read one of the 73 chapters of their rule, as well as excerpts from the life of the saint of the day and Psalm 129 (de profundis). They also made their confession here in public, commemorated the deceased and arranged the day's work. On Sundays, comments were made on the ordinances of the general chapter or on a section of the consuetudines , which contained prescriptions for daily life.

The chapter rooms of the Cistercian order often have a similar structural design. There were wooden or stone benches on the four walls on which the monks sat while the abbot took a seat opposite the entrance. In Silvacane only a few fragments of former stone benches have been preserved. In the middle of the room there was a desk for the reader of the day.

Chapter house, west wall

The chapter house of Silvacane is covered by a six-part cross-ribbed vault with ogival ribs made of two slender round bars and belt arches made of simple thicker round bars, all of which are facing the angular arches. In the crowns of the vault, the ribs meet in keystones made of cross-shaped round bars of the ribs and belt arches, partly also made of simply angled round bars. The vault gussets consist of masonry shells resting on the ribs.

The two different pillars on which the ribs rest create a distinctive spatial structure. A pillar consists of a twisted column shaft, which is equipped with a simply carved leaf capital, multi-tiered transom profiles, slim base profiles and a multi-tiered octagonal base. This pillar was faithfully restored between 1960 and 1970. The second pillar is a kind of cantoned pillar . Its cross-section consists of an equal-armed cross, the arms of which are separated by wide fillets. Slender semicircular columns are faded in on the straight ends of the cross arms. This group of columns is crowned by a four-part group of capitals with simply carved leaf decoration, which is covered by a multi-level profiled fighter plate, and stands on a group of four profiled bases, which are arranged on a square, two-tiered plinth. On the walls, the ribs stand on simply profiled three-part cantilever brackets with appropriately divided transom plates, in the corners of the room these are only one-piece.

In the west wall of the chapter hall, the doorway is flanked by two arched wall openings that are aligned with the axes of the vaulted fields. Their arches are supported by recessed arched fields supported by twin arcade arches that stand in the center of the opening on one and two fluted pillars each , equipped with a simply carved capital, multi-tiered fighter, profiled base on an octagonal plinth. The three non-closable wall openings allowed the lay brothers to follow certain meetings of the monastic community from the cloister. In the east wall there are three tall, slender, arched windows with widened walls.

Convention, warming room

Behind the stairs to the dormitory on the upper floor, which were used during the day to go to the latrines or to take a nap in summer, a barrel-vaulted passage connected the cloister with the monastery garden, also known as the "monks' garden". This room also served as an auditorium , as it was the only place where conversations between an abbot or prior and a monk were allowed. On its south wall a door opens to a small chamber under the flight of stairs, which is illuminated through a small window. It was maybe a closet or an office.

The last room on the ground floor of the east wing is the warming room, or the calefactorium, the only room in the monastery that could be heated with an open fireplace, served the monks as a lounge where they could warm up in the cold seasons. Undoubtedly, the novices' lessons, the annual bloodletting of the monks, writing, sewing and other things took place here. It is accessed from the cloister via an arched door and is a little longer than the chapter house.

Convent, heating room, consoles

Like the chapter house, the warming room is also covered by a six-part ribbed vault, the pointed arches of which are more complex than those of the chapter house. The ribs have cross-sections made from a thicker round bar that is accompanied by two slimmer, slightly receding bars. The wider belt arches consist of a sharp-edged profile, which is accompanied by slightly thicker round bars. All profiles are pre-faded into angular arches.

In the middle of the room, the ribs and belt arches stand together on two smooth, powerfully dimensioned pillars, which are crowned by the simply carved leaf capitals with wide, projecting three-tiered fighter plates. They stand on triple-profiled bases and square plinths, the upper halves of which have vertical outer sides that are flush with the lower base profile and the lower halves of which are steeply bevelled on all sides. The spandrels between the square plinths and the round column bases are decorated with vegetable carved corner spurs, also known as corner leaves.

Convent, warm room, fireplace

On the walls of the room, the ribs and belt arches stand on groups of three smooth, semicircular services , with two slimmer ones flanking a wider one, which are connected to one another with flat strips of the pillar cores. On the middle there are belt arches, on the flanking there are cross ribs. The services are equipped with leaf capitals, protruding profiled striker plates, profiled bases and angular plinths. In the corners of the room, in which only a single rib arrives, there is only one of the slimmer pillars.

Convent, heating room, cupboard niches

In the northern section of the east wall are the remains of a stone open fireplace with a completely preserved chimney, the side frames of which are badly damaged. The door in the western corner of the north wall is believed to have led to latrines. In the same wall, a large rectangular window with a cross-shaped window is cut out, the walls of which are widened at the sides and at the top, the lintel edge of which is rounded in a segmental arc. Stone benches are arranged on both sides of the window, a facility that evidently coined the term "windowsill". This window was probably installed in place of the original wall opening at the initiative of the Canons of Aix-en-Provence. There are several niches in the walls that have served as shelves.

Due to the natural slope of the adjoining site in an easterly direction, this room was built with a basement, along with the eastern yoke of the refectory.

The monks' dormitory, their common dormitory, extends upstairs over the entire length of the east wing, starting at the gable wall of the north transept and ending with the north gable of the east wing. Basically, the rule of St. Benedict provides for shared dormitories in which simple straw mats on the floor served as sleeping places. Right from the start, the upper floor was accessed via two entrances, namely by a long staircase from the east gallery of the cloister, which in the upper area is divided into two staircases at right angles to the north and south. The canons of Aix-en-Provence probably had a prayer painted on the wall there in the 17th century (?). These stairs were mostly used during the day. In the evenings and at night, a second connection was used, the door in the south wall, which leads via a staircase to the north arm of the transept of the church, where nightly services had to be attended.

The original regulations regarding the common dormitory were probably no longer strictly adhered to over the years and so the dormitory was divided into more or less large sleeping chambers and corridors by partition walls in a size and floor plan that are no longer comprehensible today.

Didier Repellin, chief architect of the monument authority, tried as much as possible to recreate the huge dormitory in its original form. For example, the window in the north gable was faithfully restored using just a few remains.

The dormitory stands on the ground plan of an elongated rectangle, which is covered by an impressive stone pointed vault, which is divided into five sections by belt arches with a rectangular cross-section. At a height of almost three meters, the vaults and arches on the long walls are marked by a cantilever cornice in the form of a half round bar. The belt arches stand on huge cantilever consoles, which are fourfold stepped on the front with rounded edges. The top step is the continuation of the cantilevered cornice around the belt arches. The top of the vault is almost three times as high as the longitudinal walls. At half the height of the vault, a door opening is cut out on each side, which led into the roof space above the vault, which was used on the one hand for maintenance purposes and on the other hand for storage. There is another opening into it on the east wall.

In the east wall, a total of thirteen small, arched windows are recessed with flared walls. In the fourth yoke there is another door, the purpose of which is not known. Maybe it was an additional exit to a staircase that led to latrines. In the west wall, a total of nine similar windows and a door in the fourth yoke, to which five steps lead up in the reveal. This door led to the upper floor of the eastern cloister gallery, which was there after the traces of beam supports in the west wall of the dormitory.

In the northern gable wall, a large round arched window is cut out in the vault area, the walls of which are widened and the edges of which are set back. A little below is a smaller arched window with flared walls. In this wall there is a round arched door on the right, the inner lintel of which is curved in a segmental arc. This door once led to a wooden roofed porch, the full width of the gable between the buttresses. It is not known whether this already contained the latrines (necessarium) or whether a staircase led to lower lying latrines.

Approximately in the middle of the room there are parapet walls that surround the storey stairs with their double ends from the cloister. These parapets stand on a larger rectangular floor area one step higher than the rest of the floor.


The refectory stands on an elongated rectangular floor plan and its south wall is attached to the north gallery over its entire length. Traces of an expansion plan can still be seen on this south wall, but this has been abandoned. The two doors opening close to each other from the cloister and interruptions in the masonry suggest that at least two rooms should be created here, such as the refectory and a kitchen. However, in the end only a large refectory was built, which once had a hatch in the shape of a lying rectangle in the west wall, through which the meals prepared in a separate kitchen were passed. A walled niche has been preserved from this.

The refectories of the Cistercians are all large, light-flooded halls, including that of Silvacane. It is covered by four four-part ribbed vaults that are arranged quite high. Its cross ribs consist of a strong round bar, which is flanked by two slim round bars. The belt arches have rectangular cross-sections, the edges of which are wide bevelled. The girders stand on three-quarter-round service-like consoles that are almost three feet long, crowned with carved capitals and profiled polygonal warriors, and closed at the bottom with octagonal bases. They are accompanied by small much shorter consoles on which the ribs stand. They, too, are crowned by similar capitals and fighters, with the round bracket piece ending hemispherically at the bottom. The shield arches of the west and east walls are half belt arches that stand on similar consoles together with the affected ribs. The shield arches of the long walls are marked with minimal profiles. The keystones of the vaults consist of cruciform round profiles of the ribs, which are covered on the underside by plant-carved rosette-like plates.

The large windows in the middle of the first three bays of the north wall with clover-leaf lancet arches probably have restored tracery. The latter also applies to the large rose window in the west wall, the six-pass of which is enclosed in the center by six three-passes. The much smaller oculus in the fourth yoke of the north wall is shifted slightly to the west and has lost its tracery. Not far below there was probably originally a large arched window that reached to the floor. This is evidenced by the contours of a wedge arch (see picture) outside and inside, the inner one today forms the asymmetrically curved lintel of the reading platform (see picture).

The large window opening can be seen in a photo of the north side from 1881, and one of the inner northeast corner of the refectory from the beginning of the twentieth century. It can also be seen in a watercolor from the late 18th century. (see pictures) In the course of the more recent restoration work, however, the window opening was walled up flush with the outside (there is a photo of it from April 2007) and inside the wall niche was converted into a reading platform protruding from the wall, to which a staircase in the wall leads. Strangely enough, the protruding part has disappeared today.

In the southeast corner of the refectory, a staircase secured by a parapet leads down to the basement below.

In the photo of the north-east corner, two rows of rectangular holes, arranged briefly one above the other, are embedded on the east wall at a height of about three meters, which indicate a layer of beams that belonged to a false ceiling that was temporarily inserted here - there were on the north and south walls matching a slightly larger recess, in which a thicker beam was mounted, on which the beam layer that extended over an entire yoke rested. The false ceiling probably dates from the time when the buildings of the enclosure were used for agricultural purposes, for example for dry storage of hay and straw on the upper floor.


  • Carsten Fleischhauer: The architecture of the Cistercians in Provence: Sénanque - Le Thoronet - Silvacane . Dissertation, 2002. (=  Cologne architecture studies . Volume 77 ). Department of Architectural History of the Art History Institute of the University of Cologne, Cologne 2003, DNB  969813856 .
  • Rolf Legler: Languedoc - Roussillon. From the Rhône to the Pyrenees (=  DuMont documents. DuMont art travel guide ). 6th edition. DuMont, Cologne 1991, ISBN 3-7701-1151-6 , p. 314-315 .
  • Nathalie Molina: The Silvacane Abbey . Éditions du patrimoine, Paris 1999, ISBN 2-85822-291-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Nathalie Molina, pp. 1-2.
  2. Nathalie Molina, p. 29.
  3. a b Nathalie Molina, pp. 4-8.
  4. Nathalie Molina, p. 5.
  5. Nathalie Molina, p. 22.
  6. Nathalie Molina, pp. 8-10.
  7. Nathalie Molina, p. 42.
  8. Nathalie Molina, pp. 9-10.
  9. Nathalie Molina, pp. 10-12.
  10. Nathalie Molina, pp. 12-14.
  11. Nathalie Molina, pp. 12-15.
  12. Nathalie Molina, pp. 15-17.
  13. Nathalie Molina, pp. 19-21.
  14. Nathalie Molina, pp. 21-24.
  15. a b Nathalie Molina, p. 24.
  16. Nathalie Molina, pp. 30-31.
  17. a b Nathalie Molina, p. 36.
  18. Nathalie Molina, p. 32.
  19. Nathalie Molina, p. 38.
  20. Nathalie Molina, pp. 38-39.
  21. Nathalie Molina, p. 39.
  22. a b Nathalie Molina, p. 43.

Web links

Commons : Abbaye de Silvacane  - collection of images, videos and audio files