Monday, December 21, 2009

Abbaye de Frigolet

It's funny sometimes how the mind works.  I woke up this morning thinking about my visit to the Abbaye de Frigolet in September of 2008 with Chef Érick.    It was a beautiful day and we were clientless so we decided (well, he decided, I just went along for the ride, as usual) to take advantage of the weather and get out and about.
The abbey is located between Avignon and Tarascon, not a far drive from Arles.  It was founded in about 960 by Conrad the Pacific, King of Arles, and dedicated to Saint Michel.  It is a Premonstratenian monastery.  There is more history, of course, but as I am not Catholic or French, it just doesn't make too much sense to me.  If you are interested, here is the official link:  There is a restaurant, rooms to stay in, and a gift shop.  I think it is a retreat center, too.
We wandered around the grounds for a bit, hiking around and checking out the herbs and berries growing wild everywhere.

We went into the church, where sunlight was streaming through the windows.

And we checked out the little village that is set up behind glass, kind of crèche style.  To tell the truth, that is probably why I started thinking of this place to begin with.  Christmas, manger scenes, etc. on the brain.


It is very elaborate, filled with all kinds of characters from the village, the Bible and local stories, but I was fascinated by the monk and his still.  He is having some of his liqueur and his nose is quite red, meaning he has had quite a bit of this lovely liquid that even Alphonse Daudet wrote about in his Lettres de Mon Moulin.  We probably spent 30 minutes in front of this display, laughing and pointing at all the various figurines.
I did indeed taste this drink, Liqueur des Prémontrés, as Chef Érick bought some to take home.

Unfortunately, I did not bring any home with me.  I am quite sure he still has the bottle stashed in the secret cabinet in the dining room...  This drink is also known by the name L'Elixir du Révérend Père Gaucher.
Having grown up in a very strict Baptist church ("Thou shalt not partake of anything even resembling alcohol" or something to that effect was on the wall of my grandmother's church), I find this fascinating.  Dom Perignon and his champagne is another example of enterprising monks finding ways to support their monastery. The fact that Catholics could consume alcohol made us Baptists very, very suspicious of them.  Oh, it was being consumed (and probably made) by members of my family, we just did not talk about it.
I found several links to the Frigolet Liqueur by googling the name, but not too much information.  I did find this lovely poster--

Isn't it beautiful?

À votre santé, les Prémontrés! 

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