Saint-Michel de Grandmont Priory was built in the 12th century and is one of the best-preserved of the 160 Grandmontine monasteries. It is a religious order, founded by Étienne of Thiers, son of Viscount of Thiers from the Auvergne. It was known to be one of the strictest, and austere orders of the Middle Ages. There was no hierarchy, with no archives, and no heating. The monks walked with bare feet, in perpetual silence. They ate no meat, and fasted regularly. As they worked, they engaged in silent prayer. Theirs was the first order to be permitted to beg for food.
By 1772 the Grandmontaine Order had dwindled in popularity, and was eventually dissolved, and the Priory was absorbed into the Diocese of Lodève. Two monks remained in the Priory until their deaths in 1785.
After the French revolution, the priory passed into the hands of a local merchant family, who developed it as a home, and agricultural estate. From 1849 to 1936 it was owned by the Vitalis family, who were cloth manufacturers. Etienne Vitalis restored the buildings, making them fit for habitation, and wine production. In 1957 it was bought by the Bec family, who owned a local engineering firm. In 1980 the Priory was classed as a historic monument, and opened its doors to the public.
The Priory of St Michel de Grandmont is the only surviving building from the order of Grandmont. The group of buildings includes a church, a Romanesque cloister surmounted by a pinnacle, and a chapter house and cellar.References:
Claude Monet lived for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926, in Giverny. With a passion for gardening as well as for colours, he conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art. Walking through his house and gardens, visitors can still feel the atmosphere which reigned at the home of the Master of Impressionnism and marvel at the floral compositions and nymphéas, his greatest sources of inspiration.
In 1890 Monet had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its rectangular Clos normand, with archways of climbing plants entwined around colored shrubs, and the water garden, formed by a tributary to the Epte, with the Japanese bridge, the pond with the water lilies, the wisterias and the azaleas.
Today the Monet's Garden is open to the public.