Le Thoronet

Thoronet Abbey

Situated in the Var department, the Thoronet Abbey is a marvel of Cistercian architecture, now listed as a Historical Monument. Built between 1160 and 1230 by the monks of Tourtour, it stands in the heart of a wild and still preserved nature. The abbey is a must visit when you set out to discover the region. Marked by serenity, it will offer you a moment of meditation and calm. Far from the usual hustle and bustle of tourist sites, take a leap back in time and discover the living environment of the 20 monks who lived here in the 12th century.

The Silvacane Abbey, Sénanque Abbey and Thoronet Abbey are nicknamed the three Cistercian sisters of Provence. They were all built according to the rule known as “Cistercian order”, which advocated material poverty and simplicity of life. To avoid distracting the monks during their prayer and work, the architecture was therefore austere and pared down. The Thoronet Abbey is the most pared down of the three sisters of Provence. It is no longer occupied by the monks and can therefore be visited freely. You can discover the abbey church, the cloister, the dormitory, the convers building, the chapter house and the cellar.

A jewel of Cistercian art

The setting in which the Thoronet Abbey was built was not chosen at random. All the materials needed to build the building were found here: quarries for the limestone, forests for the pines and streams providing abundant water. The facade of the church is typical of Romanesque architecture: sober, humble and devoid of any ornament. In this desire not to distract the monks, the interior is pared down. You will not discover any image, any figuration. Only crosses timidly decorate the capitals of the heart.

The beauty is discovered in the work of the stone, the harmony of the volumes and the attention given during the construction. The play of light is fundamental in the church of the Thoronet Abbey, they symbolize the incarnate Christ. The various openings are closed by simple stained-glass windows, devoid of representation, so that a pure and limpid light can bathe this place of meditation.

The cloister of the Thoronet Abbey, built in the 12th century, is representative of Cistercian architecture. The galleries, topped by keystone motifs, connect the different buildings. The sober Romanesque arcades offer a view over a small garden. The cloister’s fountain is sheltered in an aedicula overlooking the galleries and the garden. The monks used this incredible sink to make their ablutions and purify themselves.

In the second half of the 12th century, the builders of Le Thoronet were influenced by Gothic architecture. In the chapter house, rib vaults appeared. This was one of the only character-defining elements of the Gothic style that the Cistercians agreed to add in their construction.

During the revolution, the Thoronet Abbey was jeopardized. In 1840, Prosper Mérimée, an inspector of the Historical Monuments, declared that this construction was a major monument of Romanesque architecture. Rescued from the ruins, it started to be restored in 1841. This restoration allowed it to regain its original appearance. Over the centuries, the minimalism of the abbey inspired many architects. Among them are Le Corbusier who declared in 1951 ” At the time of ‘bêton brut’, blessed, welcome and praised be, during the journey, such an admirable meeting.”

The International Festival of Le Thoronet

The Thoronet festival has been held for 3 decades within the walls of the abbey. During the International Festival, a large repertoire of ancient and traditional music can be discovered. Medieval songs then fill the place, which suddenly comes back to life. The incredible acoustics of the Thoronet Abbey reveal the soul of this ancient music which resonates in the heart of the Var department during this event.

Prepare your visit

L’abbaye est ouverte toute l’année, mais elle est fermée les 1er janvier, 1er mai, 1er et 11 novembre et 25 décembre.

Les horaires d’ouverture de l’Abbaye du Thoronet changent en fonction de la saison :

  • Octobre à mars : de 10h00 à 13h00 et de 14h00 à 17h00
  • Avril à septembre : de 10h00 à 18h30

Rendez-vous à l’accueil de l’abbaye pour récupérer les documents de visite qui vous permettront de découvrir les lieux. Ils sont disponibles en français, anglais, italien, allemand, japonais et néerlandais. Vous pouvez également louer un audioguide. Si vous souhaitez découvrir tous les secrets de l’abbaye, vous pouvez privilégier une visite commentée (sur rendez-vous pour les groupes).

L’Abbaye n’est pas aménagée pour accueillir les personnes à mobilité réduite. Il y a de nombreux escaliers dans l’enceinte du monument. La visite n’est cependant pas impossible pour les PMR, à condition d’être accompagné.

Site Internet : http://www.le-thoronet.fr/


From the village of Le Thoronet, you can reach the abbey on foot or by bike. Feel free to look at the various hiking trails that you can take.

From Aix-en-Provence:

  • on the A8 Highway, take exit 35 Le Cannet-des-Maures
  • on the Route nationale 7, go to Cannet-des-Maures

Then follow the D79 secondary road, head to Le Thoronet until the Abbey.

From Cannes: on the A8 Highway, exit at Cannet-des-Maures, follow the Route nationale 7 towards Fréjus, then the D17 secondary road towards L’Abbaye du Thoronet (Thoronet Abbey) and finally the D79 secondary road.

Selection of monuments in Var :