The Augustinian priory here was founded in 1080, on land donated by the Alquier noble family of Béziers. A new church was consecrated in 1115. Numerous relics were collected by the abbey and it served as cemetery to the nobility of the region. The lands owned by the priory extended to 75 villages. Pope Innocent III in the context of the crusade against the Cathars exempted the priory from control by the bishops of Béziers, making it subject only to the Holy See in spiritual matters. In secular terms, the abbey pledged allegiance to Louis IX of France in 1268.
In the 14th century the priory began to decline, as a result of the Black Plague and the turmoils of the Hundred Year's War, and the number of monks halved, from 80 in the 13th century to 40 by 1384. The monastery was pillaged during the wars of religion, in 1539, and again in 1563. By 1605, the monastic community was moribund, reduced to seven or eight monks. In 1671, it was attached to Sainte-Geneviève abbey in Paris.
The medieval buildings were torn down and the estate was rebuilt from ground in the mid-18th century under prior Pas de Beaulieu, except for the church building, which was modified but retains its 12th century romanesque core structure. After the French revolution, the monastery was dissolved and the property nationalised, in 1791 sold to an advocate, Marc Antoine Thomas Mérigeaux, who bought it on behalf of a Prince de Conti who offered it to his mistress, Madame de Brimont.
From this point, the former monastery became known as Château de Cassan or Cassan castle. It changed hands several times during the 19th and 20th centuries, eventually passing to the French state, housing administrative offices, but in 1995 sold again to a private party, and in 2002 to a real estate holding.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.