Saint Guilhem le Désert and Les Vins de Saint Saturnin

Every week, the school offers a variety of field trips, and my first weekend there was to Saint-Guilhem le Desert. This is one of the more remote cities within Southern France.

It was founded in the 9th century, when Guillaume of Aquiin retired from a lifetime as a soldier. As a friend of the Emperor Charlemagne, Guillaume was favored, and he was gifted the land, which he turned into a Monastery. He also received a piece of the cross that Jesus carried; it is still on display in the Abbaye de Gallone. You can see it protected in the center of the cross.

The church was at one point destroyed, but you can still see vestiges of the original 10th century construction. You can also see the original crypt of St. Guillaume, though his body was removed before it was re-discovered.

From the monastery court yard, you can see the remains of a castle from long ago. When the villagers of St. Guilhem saw the castle, they believed that a giant lived there. And for centuries, they were afraid to leave the safety within the village walls, for fear of this giant. But, after 500 or so years, the villagers were talking of the giant, and one of them said, “wait a minute, it’s been 500 hundred years; the giant must be dead!” And, from that point on, the villagers were no longer afraid.

St. Guilhem le Desert became a stop on the pilgrimage across Europe. Though out this trip, there are little fountains with clam shells engraved on them. This is a sign that the water is safe for drinking, and the water here was very delicious.

We ate lunch with the guides (they know where the food is delicious and cheap), and had a good time. The place was a hotel, called Le Guilhaume d’Orange. The plate of the day was a choice of beef or fish, accompanied by cheese, salad, etc. Afterward, we went down for a swim.

The monastery was built in the ravine above the river Herault. This river is really fresh, and just below the village, after a rather dangerous hike, there is a little swimming area. The water is beautiful and clear, and I’d imagine, rather cold. I’m really looking forward to a trip back so I can go in as well!

Every field trip is accompanied by a wine tasting of some sort. This one was especially exciting because we were able to visit the vineyard of Saint Saturnin. The wine wasn’t bad, and it was really cool to see the inner workings of the place. I especially liked where they stored the wine in the wooden barrels. It was basically a man-made cave.

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