A little history of Aiguebelle abbey
The Aqua bella abbey ("nice waters", because of the little rivers running here) was founded in 1134 by Cistercian monks, led by Othon de Frisingue, abbot of Morimond. In 1137, lord of Rochefort, Gontard Loup, gave lands for the construction of the abbey.
Those lands were called Derzas, because of the thorny bushes we found here at that time.
Monks started to dyke up the Vence waters, to irrigate the dark valley in order to transform it into a fertile land. And the abbey was called Aqua bella, Aiguebelle!
An abbey in the turmoil
This one soon extended, became rich and prosperous: it even founded its own abbey, Notre-Dame-du-Frayssinet! But soon misfortunes came: in the 14th century, plague and starving stroke the area.
Then river floods damaged the place: in 1441, only a dozen of monks left!
In 1549, epidemics came back, and wars of Religion: in 1562, baron des Adrets, leading Protestants, plundered the area. They sacked Valréas, Pierrelatte, then arrived in Aiguebelle: they didn’t spare the abbey... Tombs and cloister were destroyed and they lit a big fire... Fortunately, monks took shelter far away from here! They came back in 1588.
But everything went to ruin… In 1790, monks were expelled. Looters damaged the abbey but in 1810, a man called Jean-Joseph Petit bought the church, the religious buildings and the lands. He sold them, until Cistercian monks came back: 8 of them started the restoration of the 35 hectares estate.
In the middle of the 19th century, we had 300 monks here! They made wicker objects, then linen and even created a chocolate factory! But this factory disturbed our monks' daily life... so they decided to move it elsewhere. Nowadays, we can visit the church.