Senanque     Pearl in the Alpilles           

Senanque is an important location! It has been in three episodes: 15 Possesed, 23 Handmaiden and 24 Rebirth

Established in 1148, the Abbey's fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, being at times abandoned and even used as a farmstead storage facility for livestock and crops. After Crossbow (1986) around 1988 the monks moved again  into Senanque and it has been a working monastery since that time. Tours are given, but because Cistercians are a silent, cloistered order, visitors are not allowed to wander on their own throughout the facility as the monks live, work, worship and pray. Today's monks have a modern residence, but in the Middle Ages, this is where as many as 30 monks slept. The dormitory was partitioned so each monk's bed had a bit of privacy. The door at the far end led to stone steps down into the church. Since the monks gathered 7 times during the day and night to sing the hours, it was important for them to have easy access to the church. The stairway in the foreground leads to the cloister.When not working or worshiping, the monks spent time here in the cloister in meditation and prayer. The 'warming room' and the chapter house open into the cloister.

The unknown place in the beginning of ep 15 Possessed. Stefan seems to be confused after he fell off a mountain while he tried to save Eleanor (episode 12 The Pass). In Episode 15 Possessed, Eleanor found out where her father is and wants to get him out of this bad institute for madmen.  Below Stefan is found lost and is taken away to the 'madhouse.'


Stefan is taken to this gloomy place. Tell manages to get in (in disguise) and manages to get in contact with Stefan.

Stefan seems back himself again. But Tell must be wary... 



They're walking on the right wing (then you have to pass the right arcades and you will see the alley)



  "These are not the eyes of a madman," Rosanne says to Stefan.





                          Standing on nr. 7 (map below)              Not the same camera angle close (from 7 to 3 on the map below)

Behind the woman there is a huge pillar attached to the arcade, you can see it on the right photo but from a distance (above the right robe).



The cages hung in 7 and 8

Seen from from nr. 7 to nr. 3. Both photos are taken from the place where the cages used to hang.



Location: the courtyard of Senanque


Eleanor arrives in Senanque, but can she get her father out?


The recognition

Stefan is happy to see her                                                 Eleanor is caught. She's waiting for the best time for a resistance..



Aula Capituli Senanque

The Chapter room / Salle de Capitre. This room is attached to the courtyard.

Gessler and Lady Rosanne



                          2015                                             1986  Lady Rosanne is driven to the left corner of the room.     




Lady Rosanne is a girl who certainly can't be forced. Gessler is pushing her over the edge.

Gessler noticed she is making progress with her therapy but she is not fond off Gessler. She finally spits Gessler in his face.

Then Gessler hears about the good results of the Master of Mercy. He takes him to Lady Rosanne. But the master of mercy is not the one he thinks he is........


The chapter room is the room where the monastic community meets daily around its Abbot, to listen to a chapter of the Rules of St. Benedict. This is the only room where it is allowed to speak. It is here that the monks make the decisions concerning the community and that takes the making of clothes, the monastic professions or the election of the Abbot.

The monks sit on the stands. The Abbot, placed in the center, faces a representation, figure of the demon, carved in the cloister (vignette). What characterizes this room is the subtlety of its acoustics: the word can be heard effortlessly, thanks in particular to the six stone ribs of the ridge vault.



                                                                         1986                                                                                                       2015                                                                                         



                                                      1986                                                                                    2016                                                                      


The salle du chapitre (chapter-house), where the monks came as close as it was possible for a Cistercian to get to socialising, was the only place where talking was permitted. On a pillar opposite the door, a tarasque (sculpted devil), pictured, keeps an eye on the proceedings. Perhaps it's there to remind the praying monks that as they leave this room, the Devil and worldly temptation are always waiting. (see the sculpture of the Devil, photo right below, while walking out of the Chapture room).


A moment later in the Dome of Senanque...



The revelation of the master of Mercy.

The right picture below: this seems one of the soldiers that returns in season 3 Forbidden land



On the right, the tomb and the funerary monument of Geoffroy de Venasque, benefactor of Sénanque.


Above around 1986 and below around 2018




Outside Senanque

                          January 1986                                                               December 2017                                           They start walking in front of Senanque



The same fields. Middle and left above: episode Possessed ep. 15. Right picture: the end of episode Handmaiden ep 23.

                        Below: this is not the end of Possessed, but suddenly Mathew or a stand-in showed up at Senanque. It's the end shot of |Handmaiden in 'The Emperor wants Tell free' and Matthew and Tell riding away.



The resistence

in episode 15 Possessed



In between Gessler will hang three innocent people but there comes help!

This field lies higher than Senanque. The field is finally found by mr. Petit, it has hardly landmarks but he succeeded. It happened before that they moved about 20- 30 km. further.


And there goes Gessler...


Found and drawn by C. Petit.

The field is probably in this circle, not just a walk from Senanque, like they made it look like.


Episode 23 Handmaiden in Senanque

                           1986                                                              2015                                                                           1986                               


The Maria statue looks the same but seems to have nowadays a luminous coating or something. It almost glows!



Episode 23 Handmaiden - West side of the Dome

The cell of the Princess and also the place Horst gets Tell in 'Possessed.' It's situated in the north west side of the Dome of Senanque


.                                                                     1986       is in a corner of the church                                            2015                                                           



Salle Chauffoir de Senanque

The heater. This small vaulted room leans on four vaults of edges falling in the center on a robust column whose capital is adorned with leaves of water and flowers of lilies. A beautiful fireplace, conical, allows to burn trunks placed vertically. The room, originally, had two chimneys as evidenced by the two skylights visible from the outside. As the name suggests, it is the only heated room in the monastery outside the kitchen. It was in this room that the monks came to work. It served as a scriptorium, a place where Biblical manuscripts were copied and illustrated.

Episode 15 Possessed a kind of Torture camber and episode 24 Handmaiden one of the seats of Emperor

1986  the huge pillar and heater                                                   2015                                                                    And the heater        




2016          Tell in disguise to see Stefan. The wall behind the non is behind the pillar (left photo).      1986



1986                                                                                              2015


The only source of heat in the entire monastery during the Middle Ages! I can't imagine how cold these monks must have had it.   

Filmed in the Dome of the abbey of Senanque (his seat is changed from Palais du Papes episodes Citadel and Princess to the Dome and Salle Chauffoir of abbaye de Senanque (Handmaiden). Below Gessler poisoned the wine of the emperor. The emperor survived but is weak now so Gessler can do what he wants.

1986                                                                          1986                                                                          2015


Below: The window Horst and Gessler look at each other (after poisoning the Emperor's wine) is not shot at the central Dome place where the whole scene took place (right above), but a smaller room in Senanque with almost the same window..why? I don't know..



On the right, the tomb and the funerary monument of Geoffroy de Venasque, benefactor of Sénanque.           

1986                                                                          2016                                                                           



1986             In front of the entrance of chapter room /salle capitre (left side) and right the courtyard of Senanque     2014               






  This episode is a mix of the following locations in department Vaucluse (Cell princess and seat Emperor in Senanque and Chartreuse Avignon) Middle above a shot of a soldier riding the snowy path next of Senanque. Right above: soldier riding out of Fort St. Andre Avignon. For episode the 'Handmaiden,' most scenes are shot around Boulbon, with exception of the interior scenes of the Emperor and Gessler. It's remarkable that this episodes do have almost 10 episodes in between (episode 15 and 23!). So they probably have shot in a different order than the episode numbers telling us.


Above: a combination of Senanque and Sainte Andre Avignon. Below Villeneuve les Avignon (Four Horsemen, Citadel, Princess and Handmaiden and rebirth interiors are changed in Senanque)


'The tower scenes' combined with Villeneuve Les Avignon and Fort Saint Andre and later Senanque. See below.



Quote Will Lyman: "For three seasons, we shot from June until Christmas. We didn’t shoot in winter except for season one when we had to go back in January to finish 3 episodes around Senanque (Possessed, Rebirth and Handmaiden, I think.)  The area got a huge snowfall that month, and all of Europe got a severe cold snap". What a beautiful view in the snow!

To Compare the 4 photos below

Below compare the field. This is the end of Handmaiden, filmed at chateau Boulbon and suddenly change to Senanque fields. Same time recorded as Episode Possessed in the snow.


                                                                                                      january 1986                                                                   december 2017


The arrival of the 'master of mercy' at the North of Senanque




Below: West side of the notre dame de Senanque. Horst tells he needs new coffins. With one Eleanor went in to get her dad out.


The Stairs the dome of Senanque

To compare:

                    Possessed                                                            Cell Princess episode Handmaiden                                          2015


I was impressed by the huge door and big key and the locks. The little but severe woman guide was locking all the doors carefully behind her (right above). So the monks could use the spaces that we just left.

Although it was May the rooms were very cold. The small window makes you turn your view inside and not outside so the sun couldn't warm up this place.

After 30 years and a bunch of residents and visitors, still the same stairs.  I've been there in May and in Juli the It was nice cool inside, a little cold, not many windows, because the windows would distract the monks from God. No heater in those parts. During Crossbow it was winter, they wanted to stop in the winter but the scenes that year took more time so they had to shoot when the snow fell in. In that times the place was deserted, the monks left, but just after Crossbow they returned. Now they are still living there.


1987                                                                                   2015     



North west wing of the Dome de Senanque



1986                                                                                                                    2017



                                                                     1986                                       2016   Gessler asks permission from Prince Ignatius for a marriage with the Princess                        




Here below four photos of the courtyard in the earlier episodes. St. Jean cloistre Villeneuve les Avignon



The courtyard of Senanque

The Courtyard is in Episode The Four Horsemen, The Citadel, The princess in Cloistre St. Jean Villeneuve les Avignon  (the pillars are bigger and the courtyard seems smaller) and in episode Handmaiden and Rebirth are the Scenes with Gessler and Prince Ignatius in the Courtyard of Senanque.

                            1986                                                                             2015


Above and below: both sides of the archways of the courtyard of Senanque.

1987                                                                                                    2015



1986                                                               2017                                                           2015



Same courtyard alley as the master of mercy enters. Right side is the salle de capitre (Gessler visits lady Rosanne) and behind Gessler Salle de chauffoir (the room with the fireplace)

1986                                                                                          2017             



1986                             In front of  Salle de Capitre                                 2016


The Chauffoir room is the same room for all those shots in different angles. It's the seat of the Emperor in (ep 23) and Gessler's room (ep 24).

 Gessler asks the Emperor for extra men to find Tell.  In this room Gessler gets a preach from the Princess after asking her hand to marriage.



The similarities of these shots in this room (above and below)

                                                                          1986                                                                                     2014                                                                     



                                                             Below the same room de Chauffoir for Episode 25. Gessler's place                     2014               


And this Chauffoir room again: in Episode 15 Torture room of Gessler to get confessions, in a gloomy psychiatric institution


 Photos  of room the Chauffoir around 2015

While entering this Chauffoir room the stairs have a fence now.




The Dome of Senanque

Location: Gessler's lunchtime and Horst is not invited.  

I think I understand this angle finally. It's taken with the dome in the back and unfortunatly there are hardly photos online taken from this possition. Right a rare photo!

                                                    1986                                                                       2016


Gessler and the two women having lunch in the Dome next to the three windows. You can see a part of the altar hidden behind Gessler.



Extra photos and information about Senanque  

It is possible to go there individually or with a group in retreat. For hundreds of years the monastery has been in use by monks who wanted to devote their lives to God. Not uninterrupted, because during the religious wars and the French Revolution the monks were temporarily expelled from their beautiful spot in Provence. In the 13th and 14th centuries were the heyday of the monastery, it owned at that time many estates in the surrounding area. Since the 16th century, the occupation of the monastery was much smaller, barely a few dozen monks. During a large part of the twentieth century, the monastery was also empty, until a small community returned in 1988 after Crossbow. The monks who now live in Sénanque grow lavender and keep bees for honey. You can buy their products in the store at the abbey. It is also possible to visit a part of the monastery, including the church, cloister and some of the old halls. The monks live according to a strict daily rhythm, starting at about 4 in the morning. As a visitor you can experience their services in the chapel or monastery church

The visit was very impressing. We've been on a tour inside the monastary ad we went back two times after to view the lavender fields and we were nearby just have view on this beautiful peaceful valley and It's abbaye. They guided tour is French.  While there are rules to enter, you can read them clearly; for me It was a shock that many tourists behaved so loud and respectlessly while visiting. Like walking through the lavenderfield, picking it and taking it with them, making over 50 selfies in all kind of different poses. They were yelling and laughing loudly while there are living monks. I hope these people learn to pay respect for the place and the monks who still live here in silence.

Entering this valley feels magical.



Senanque has to deal with forces of the nature. Flood september 2017



Summertime. Lavender in bloom until half Juli



Photos taken from above




In the mist mysterious but absolute still very pretty.


  The courtyard 




Different rooms attached to the courtyard


The room below closed for restauration 2014                                             Bibliotheca                  


 It's possible to go in retrait in a group


They might look the same but in fact this are two different places of the courtyard (the panorama photo above and below)


  In its remote secret valley of lavender fields outside the village of Gordes, the medieval Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque is one of the most instantly recognisable icons of Provence. By the Middle Ages there were over 700 Cistercian monasteries across Europe, always in remote spots. Sénanque is one of only three such abbeys in Provence, the others being Thoronet and Silvacane. They're sometimes called the "three provençal sisters".

Sénanque was established on the Sénancole river in 1148 and took a century to build. The groups are likely to be fairly full, as there aren't many tours (these have to fit around the monks' intensive prayer schedule of seven sessions a day).  You are advised to make a booking well ahead, either online, by mail, email or telephone on the cumbersome - and French language-only - page of the abbey's website. The abbey strives to preserve the peace and privacy of its monks (who stay discreetly out of sight) and imposes a series of stern requirements. Visitors should come dressed appropriately: no shorts, low-cut T-shirts, singlets or skimpy cycling gear. Parents with young children are asked to stop them from running around and making too much noise. Note, too, that the visitors' toilets are in the gift shop and can only be accessed before or after the tour. Dogs must remain outside. The tour goes up and down steps at several points and isn't suitable for wheelchairs, though there are disabled parking spaces if you want to see the abbey from the outside. The abbey has no frescos or paintings that might be damaged by a flash, but it was still a pleasant surprise that photography is permitted. It's hard not to be impressed and moved by the atmosphere of this serene, mystical and very lovely building, despite the crowds. Five areas of the abbey are visited on the tour. The altar faces north instead of, as conventional, east because of the lie of the land.Senaque bell tower with lavender fields

Passing through the cloister at the heart of the abbey, you get a good close view of the squat bell-tower before seeing the chauffoir, or warming room / calefactory, the only heated space in the building, where manuscripts were copied.

Senanque devil

Here new Abbots were voted in - and anyone who won unanimously was barred for life for pridefully voting for himself, a lesson politicians might learn from.

We were worried that the abbey's spiritual aura would be let down by a loud and vulgar gift shop.

In the event, it was huge but with a very wide-ranging collection of books on different aspects of religion and spirituality, including such issues as gay marriage, as well as architecture and Provence itself. They were mostly in French, though there was a handful in English and other languages.

You can also buy rosaries and religious statues, CDs and various lavender products, herbs, honeys and so on made at the abbey and other monasteries. Some items may also be purchased online at the Abbaye de Sénanque website.


When to go:The Abbaye de Sénanque is closed to the public for a couple of weeks in early January. The lavender (which is actually lavandin, a hybrid, not true lavender) is in bloom in midsummer. The exact weeks vary from year to year depending on the climate.


The Cistercian order at the abbey flourished until the 16th century, getting wealthier and wealthier, in contradiction to the Benedictine rule of poverty. In 1544, the Vaudois heretics revolted and their first target was Sénanque. The monks were hanged and many of the buildings were destroyed.

The abbey struggled to recover for the next three centuries, changing hands several times during the historical upheavals of the period, such as the French Revolution. By 1989, the abbey was again an active monastery.

The Dormitory


The Monk's dormitory of Senanque Abbey is on the upper level of the north side, between the entry and the church, to enable them to shuttle there quickly for the constant prayer sessions. It was built as a continuation of the transept in the church. The space for each monk is marked out by colored paving stones on the dormitory floor. With a very high vaulted ceiling, it's unheated, enormous and echoing, to discourage chatting. Around 30 monks slept there on straw mattresses until they were allowed the relative luxury of individual cells. Steps lead down to the church which, remarkably, has no grandiose main entrance, in line with the Cistercians' emphasis on humility.


Marks on the stones

The brands of the stonemasons: on the stones, engraved signs and initials recall that the monks were helped in the construction by stonecutters who marked the blocks to be able to pay the piece. Several hundred of these brands are visible to Sénanque.



Motives of the Pillars


Here too, austerity is felt: the capitals of the columns, all different, are simply decorated with plant motifs. Cistercian architecture and art are typically simple and elegant. These leaf and nature motifs are the only decoration permitted in the monastery. No carved tympanums here; no stained glass windows of Biblical scenes or saints. Hear the words of St Bernard of Claivaux, founder of the order:

"What is the use of placing these ridiculous monsters, beautiful horrors, and horrible beauties under the eyes of the monk when he must read and meditate?...It then becomes more pleasant to read the marble than the manuscripts and one spends days contemplating these sculptures one after the other instead of meditating on the law of God."


The abbey church. The great apse of the transept, illuminated by three openings that converge towards the altar. This large apse is framed by two apsidioles (two chapels) of pure Romanesque style on each side. Each chapel was used for the celebration of private masses or low mass (for the repose of the soul, of a benefactor, for example).  The church is built in the shape of a Latin cross. No decoration should disturb the prayer and the recollection of the monks. Only light, the symbol of God, must modulate space. Here the choir monks occupied stalls while the lay brothers stood at the back of the church. The latter entered the building through the side doors. The church is aligned to the north, instead of the east, because of the limited width of the valley in which is sits. Like its sister abbey in Thoronet, the Senanque Abbey church has no main entrance door; the church was only for the monks and lay brothers, not the public.


Photos from the abbey

these photos

The Abbey of Sénanque was founded in 1148.

It is the fourth Cistercian abbey to be built in Provence, in Gordes, after Le Thoronet, Aiguebelle and Silvacane.

The abbey of Sénanque remains one of the purest examples of this primitive Romanesque architecture. 




















The plan






The start of the renovation





Serious danger, Abbaye closed!

If you care about this beautiful abbey, you can consider donating money. I will. I visited this abbey three times, one time during the lavander season. Amazing!

I cannot believe that this abbey has become so unstable. I went to the restorations and I didn't see any signs of cracks.

The safeguarding project consists in the construction of buttresses that would make it possible to counter the church. Bending the bell tower dome would limit structural disorders. The installation of micropiles would strengthen the foundations of the abbey church.

Combined with a remeshing and stitching of cracks, a reconnection of the gabled walls to the drip walls, these techniques would save the church. 

This solution also has the advantage of preserving the harmony of the architectural ensemble. 

Collateral before the construction of the foothills/Collateral after the construction of the foothills

In the 19th century, the construction of a chapel served as a buttress.

When this building was destroyed in 1974, the east wall became free, without an abutment. This causes the building to shift.


Please read here the whole story



The east aisle wall presents a serious stability problem that puts the entire building at risk of collapse.

 Historically, this wall was counterbalanced by the natural terrain: