South of Cannes, on the island of Saint-Honorat, is a magical, almost heavenly place... Its occupants are masters in the art of making wines and liqueurs! And they are... Cistercian monks! Installed today since 1870, their history is more than a thousand years old and deserves that we linger a little... Follow the guide !
In the footsteps of Saint Honorat...
In 410, Saint Honorat disembarked with his hermitage companion, Saint Caprais, on the island of Lérins in search of solitude. So much the better, no one on the horizon on the island... It is indeed uninhabited because of an invasion of snakes. Discovering this, Saint Honorat starts praying, and all the snakes die instantly ! First crazy story.
Unfortunately, the smell of reptiles is still very present on the island, it even stinks! Saint Honorat, hermit, prays again. And this time, all the snakes are swept away by a huge wave! Following this miracle, many people become disciples of the hermit. Thus, around 410, Saint Honorat decided to build a monastery that would later adopt the rule of Saint Benedict. For the record, this place of pilgrimage quickly became very coveted. Pilgrims who wanted to go to the island of Lérins to pray had to go to the tip of the peninsula of Cannes, around a small cross called "La croisette". This will give its name to the famous avenue of Cannes!
Saint-Honorat, an island (too much?) often attacked
On many occasions, the island is attacked and plundered by the Saracens : in 732, after being pushed back by Charles Martel in Poitiers, the Saracens retreat to the south and the five hundred monks, including the abbot Saint Porcaire, are killed and the monastery is destroyed. The monastery is rebuilt then...
but in 1047 Saracen pirates captured the monks. Afterwards, the monastery was fortified and enlarged to defend the monks as much as possible.
But unfortunately, the monastery is still vandalized and attacked several years later... Decidedly!
Finally, after the French Revolution, the building was sold... It was only in 1859 that good news arrived: the bishop of Fréjus bought the abbey of Lérins. In 1869, the abbey is thus restored and the same year a community of Cistercian monks from the Abbey of Sénanque comes to Lérins. Phew!
Today, in the abbey of Lérins...
To this day, the community of the 21 Cistercian friars of Lérins still follows the rule of Saint Benedict "prayer and work".
They have 8 offices, knowing that the first one is at 4:15!
and they work hard with a lot of work to do, as they manage a small shipping company, a restaurant, an 8.5 hectare vineyard, a distillery and an olive grove. Each of the monks thus finds his own profit, going to work where the father abbot asks him to, in the name of community work.
Wine for the... G 20...
Situated in the center of the island of Saint-Honorat, the vineyards of the abbey of Lérins have existed since the Middle Ages and are particularly well known. The maintenance of the vines follows the Cistercian tradition of parcel wine making. A conclusive method, all the more so as the island offers an ideal climate: the midday sun and the humidity of the sea during the night. For the record, their excellent wines have already been served at the table of the G20, bringing together the greatest heads of state!
On the distillery side, Brother G.-C. manages a large part of the production, but, with the help of the community, has been making mythical liqueurs for decades : Green or yellow Lerina, Senancole, tangerine, lemon, or even verbena liqueur! All this thanks to an alembic dating back to 1948.
By the way, if you want to buy products from the abbey of Lérins, you can go there, but if it's not the door next door to you, or the covid prevents you from doing so, you can also click here to buy online the liqueurs of the abbey of Lérins.
Abbey of Lérins
Tel: 04 92 99 54 00
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator