Solesmes AbbeyAtmospheric monastery famous for its Gregorian chants
Solesmes feels a bit like a one-horse town, but it’s an incredibly impressive horse. Everything centres on the imposing Solesmes monastery – famous worldwide for its haunting, traditional Gregorian chants that the monks helped to revive. The building juts up high on the bank of the River Sarthe, almost overwhelming if you’re standing at its base looking up, and best viewed from the other side of the river (a short walk over the nearby bridge).
Solesmes is a Benedictine monastery originally founded in 1010, and rebuilt and extended over the years, steeped in history, with an active community of monks. Services take place throughout the day, with hooded monks filing in, before filling the building with their chants. There’s an exhibition about everyday monastic life and a shop where you can buy recordings and honey spice cake made by the monks.
This area of the world is just below Normandy and about an hour’s drive north of the wine-tasting Loire Valley. The River Sarthe travels through picturesque villages and towns – Fresnay, Le Mans – with Sablé-sur-Sarthe just minutes away by car, as is the worth-a-visit medieval village of Asnières.
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