The Abbaye de Saint-Roman is a troglodyte abbey perched on a hilltop overlooking the River Rhône, north of Beaucaire.
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A Romanesque-style troglodyte abbey built into the rock
Cut directly into the limestone, it blends perfectly into the countryside which explains why it remained unnoticed until the middle of the 20th century. The site has been occupied since prehistoric times as the limestone contains lots of caves which provided shelter and lookout points for early man who hunted in the surrounding countryside.
From the 5th century onwards, hermits settled here and lived a monastic existence in the caves. In the 7th century, the construction became a Benedictine abbey when the hermits adopted the Rule of Saint Benedict. Over the centuries the abbey expanded, becoming a place of pilgrimage (relics of Saint Roman and Saint Trophime) then a school after fortifications were built. In the 16th century, the monks left the abbey and it was sold to a private individual who built a small castle on top of the abbey. Then, the site was abandoned once more and sank into oblivion. It was not until the 1960s that the first excavations began. Beaucaire local council bought the site, had it listed as a historic monument and built facilities so that it could be opened to the public.
The road leading up to the abbey has magnificent views of the confluence of the Rhône and the Gardon. The Romanesque-style abbey cut into the limestone features a chapel, monastic cells, an old wine press and numerous galleries. There is also an amazing necropolis (hundreds of tombs cut into the rock) on two terraces overlooking the Rhône plus remains of the fortifications. All of these remarkable remains show that the religious population was significantly high for that period.