The origins of this Benedictine abbey in Alet remain unknown: its foundation is attributed to Béra, the count of Razès, and his wife, Romille, in 813 A.D. but the documentary source of this information is not sure.
The history of the abbey has been one of a succession of quarrels and conflict due to its strategic location: for example, in the 11th century the abbey was ravaged by the Count of Carcassonne, then, in 1119, Alet abbey's rights over the abbey of Saint-Polycarpe were recognised to the detriment of the Lagrasse abbey.
The 12th century marked the peak of the abbey's history. It was very influential and attracted many pilgrims who came to see the abbey's relics of the Holy Cross.
The abbey was greatly weakened by the Crusade against the Cathars because of the ensuing conflicts with the Archbishop of Narbonne and the confiscation of property.
The Diocese of Alet was one of several bishoprics created in 1317 in the wake of the suppression of the Cathars. In Alet the bishops were also the abbots of the already existing monastery there and the cathedral of Our Lady was built next to the abbey.
In 1577 the cathedral was largely destroyed by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion and was not subsequently rebuilt. The immense Gothic quire was demolished by order of the last bishop, Charles de la Cropte de Chancerac in 1776. The diocese of Alet was not restored after the French Revolution and by the Concordat of 1801 its parishes were added to the Diocese of Carcassonne.
The cathedral ruins remain a spectacular sight. As the main cathedral was for so long in ruins, part of the monastic buildings were used as an emergency substitute. These premises were known as St. Benedict's Cathedral.References:
Manarola is a small town, a frazione of the comune of Riomaggiore. It is the second-smallest of the famous Cinque Terre towns frequented by tourists, with a population of 353.
Manarola may be the oldest of the towns in the Cinque Terre, with the cornerstone of the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. The local dialect is Manarolese, which is marginally different from the dialects in the nearby area. The name 'Manarola' is probably a dialectical evolution of the Latin, 'magna rota'. In the Manarolese dialect this was changed to 'magna roea' which means 'large wheel', in reference to the mill wheel in the town.
Manarola's primary industries have traditionally been fishing and wine-making. The local wine, called Sciacchetrà, is especially renowned; references from Roman writings mention the high quality of the wine produced in the region.