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Architecture

Today, there is no visible trace of the first abbey complex which was built at the end of the 12th century since; indeed, after 1230, the monks had the monastery completely rebuilt, larger and more imposing. The new buildings were based on enormous supporting walls facing the Garonne River. These audacious walls, 90m long and 11m high, are a sign of the financial investment capacity of the abbey at the height of its wealth.

Around 1300, Belleperche was one of the largest Cistercian abbeys in Southern France; the only one, along with its sister abbey Grandselve, to have two cloisters, the large one being reserved for the monks and the small one serving the annex buildings. The church, which is around 75m long and 20m wide, covered a surface area comparable to that of the "Jacobins in Toulouse. Its bell tower built at the cross-over point of the transept is similar to the one in Saint-Sernin and a floor boasting 100,000 decorated terracotta tiles, laid in approximately 1285, shimmers with colour.

With a surface area of 1779 m², the large cloister is bigger than usual for cloisters in the south. The monks' wing, notably housing the dormitory, was 63m long. The "passageway" still remains, a vaulted room built between 1250 and 1255. The brick and stone refectory, probably built in the 1280s, was constructed according to architectural designs used in the Ile-de-France (Paris area). As for the old infirmary, it is the only (partially) preserved building of its kind among Cistercian abbeys in the south. Integrated into the grain store in the 18th century, it originally measured 40m in length.

The current main body of the building was built upon the medieval walls between 1701 and 1750 approximately, and then re-designed between 1761 and 1763 and again around 1780. Two long galleries, which are both high and wide, are consistent with modern monastic architecture at the time; they run throughout the building from east to west and north to south.

On the ground floor, on the west side, behind the cloister, are the modern refectory and kitchens. In the centre of the architectural complex there is the grand staircase in the main hall, the dining room and the summer guest lounge, vaulted rooms entirely covered with plasterwork and which open onto a balcony looking over the river.

On the east side is the huge vaulted grain store measuring 480 m². The floor above contains the former guest rooms laid out along an immense gallery, the winter lounge and dining room, the Prior's room, the symbolic room of the Abbot, the corridor with the monks cells, as well as the apartments refurbished in the 19th century.

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Abbaye de Belleperche

Abbaye de Belleperche