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:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.