A parish priory, with its 11th century chapel and parklands,
set on a hilltop dominating the town to the north of Uzès
Uzès, GARD languedoc-roussillon 30700 FR

Location

This property is in the Gard department, in the midst of the future Garrigues Regional Nature Park (with Natura 2000 classification). It looks down on to a market town laid out on the southern slope of a geological fold on the edge of the limestone plateau of Lussan. The view stretches eastwards over Mont-Serein, known as the “giant of Provence”, as well as northwards and westwards over a rocky spur much appreciated by paragliders and over valleys with the rivers Avèze and Aiguillon running through.
Reached via the south of the village by going northwards up a narrow street, this property borders a discreet square, dubbed “the old church”, indicating the type of edifice beyond the high walls.
Avignon (TGV train station), Nîmes (airport and TGV train station) and motorways are all just 40 minutes away.

Description

Resulting from a succession of constructions started around 1,000 AD and completed in the early 19th century, the village side of this property reflects an elegant townhouse. Its wide facade, spanning three levels, is covered in old lime rendering.
The priory features windows aligned on either side of a pedestrian doorway, topped with a protruding keystone engraved with a heart encompassing the year 1819. It is accessed from a porch, reached via a flight of semi-circular steps.
The south-west corner of the south facade features a robust buttress, setback from which is a second, single-storey building that extends the property westwards.
The constructions on the north side cannot be seen from the street, going around the property on a lower level. The overgrown vegetation in the parklands, including tall cedar and pine trees, forms a dense canopy concealing the old terraces of which there remains but a few sections of the perimeter wall.
The west facade has a vertical division: on the one hand, the gable of the main building, the stonework of which features traces of a walled-up, semi-segmental arch (vestige of an earlier building) and, on the other hand, a second building, with a triple overhanging cornice enhancing the eaves. Between the two, a long slash in the masonry highlights the division between the priory and the building forming the north-west corner. The latter, which has its own west-sloping roof, looks slightly down on to the main building, whose Roman tile roof slopes southwards. The layout of these buildings bestows the property with a haughty appearance that can be seen from afar and that evokes the possibility that this dominant site was once home to a castle.
In the absence of an architectural building survey, the hypothesis of walled Seigneurial premises is, further, indicated by the property’s vast, continuous plot of land, so unlike the rest of the surrounding village, characterised by a multitude of small plots. Such a hypothesis would also appear supported by the discovery of a chapel amidst the buildings.
Most probably built in the 11th century, it adjoins a partially underground construction, standing on the north-east corner of the apse, qualified as the “crypt”, despite this being impossible to confirm. The apse of the chapel and the unusual neighbouring building form a walled courtyard, against the west gable of the priory, the west side of said courtyard housing the property’s old well, adjoining a pigsty.

The prior's home

Although the south facade essentially bears witness to remodelling works carried out in the 18th century and the first quarter of the following century, many archive documents indicate the continued presence of priors as of the 14th century.
However, the premises damaged by the wars of religion have few preserved vestiges of this past and, as a result of successive remodelling works, this memory has faded. The priory is, in fact, closely linked to the war of the Camisards (between 1702 and 1704). Following the revolt of the villagers against their prior, abbot André-Cousin, who was about to inform on a young shepherd accused of heresy, Jean-Cavalier, the Camisards’ leader and prophet, set fire to the building. The intervention of the king’s dragoons, called in as reinforcements, caused further damage to the building. The Bishop of Uzès then ordered the priory to be rebuilt, completely surrounding the old chapel with new constructions.


Ground floor
The three porch steps lead to the landing of a two-flight, half-pace stairway, providing access, on either side, to the living rooms on this level. On the east side, a vast room, the vault of which is entirely covered with gypsum, is illuminated by two south-facing windows, set in a recess in the thickness of the wall. Stucco moulding, dating from the early 19th century, flanks the fireplace mantel, in the form of old-fashioned, elegant, little columns. Dark blue stone floor tiles make it possible to imagine the refinement of the now dilapidated, interior decor. A corridor, leading eastwards via a few steps, provides access to a lower, fairly dark room on the north side and to a door, on the east side, leading to the inner courtyard.
At the other end, two adjoining, vaulted rooms, set at right angles to the previous ones, complete this level. The interior decor is sober, with outstanding grey stone floor tiles and a large fireplace, next to a “potager” (a secondary hearth where soups and other previously prepared dishes were cooked on embers), bearing witness to the use of this room as a kitchen and the following room as a scullery. A strange passageway between the two: an alcove housed in the particularly thick wall, evoking the possible presence of a well, now filled in. This section of the house, set in the corner of the buttress, has features dating from before the 19th century, possibly vestiges of conversions made in the 17th century.

First floor
The first flight of stairs goes up from the ground floor to an intermediate landing, where a door provides access to the chapel. The second flight of stairs continues up to the first floor which is divided into several rooms in keeping with a layout similar to that of the floor below. The ceilings, covered with lathwork, are of a good height and the rooms are bathed in sunlight via more windows, facing south, east and west. Four rooms on this floor have fireplaces, one of which is topped with an older, elegant trumeau, made of gypsum. The floors are covered with terracotta or stone tiles in a good state of preservation.
After a few steps, a corridor leads northwards from the landing to a terrace, enjoying a panoramic view, facing west over the foothills of the Cévenol mountains, and a view looking down into the chapel, through an opening illuminating the nave. Half-way along its length, the corridor leading northwards also provides access, to a straight stone stairway, the treads of which are covered with wood. This goes up to the top floor.

Attic
The flight of steps, perpendicular to the stairwell, provides access, on the one hand, to a room, currently open to the air, looking down on to the collapsed nave of the chapel and, on the other hand, to the rooms under the rafters on the south side of the old priory. One section of the roof is recent, the result of works to make the building safe. The rooms are illuminated via small windows set under the eaves. The floors are laid with floorboards.

The chapel and the “crypt”

The chapel, a quadrangular construction extended by a semi-circular apse, can be accessed from all four points of the compass: to the south, via the priory stairway, from the barn with its west-facing door, via the north or parklands side and lastly via a door set in the east perimeter wall of the apse. The nave, once covered with a barrel vault, is now predominantly in a state of collapse. The concrete screed laid in the 20th century to act as a roof unfortunately led to its collapse. The apse, beyond a cross-springer having prevented its neighbour from caving in, features a fine-looking, oven-shaped vault, still partially covered with rendering and fragments of frescoes from the Baroque period. The chapel adjoins a construction that is also out of sight of the street. Set on the north-east corner of the chapel and spanning two levels topped with a partially collapsed roofing framework, this construction stands out from the other buildings as it is the only one with an excavated level. It can be reached, either from the chapel, or from the priory, via an interior, walled courtyard. Its lower section, the barrel vault of which has also partially collapsed, has an interior north wall, the stone facing of which is, in part, laid opus spicatum (in a herringbone pattern). This technique was commonly used during Roman times and also during the early Middle-Ages, notably for medieval perimeter walls and for stone castle walls as of the 6th century.

The shed

This shed, an area adjoining the west side of the parish priory, can be accessed from the street and from the parklands via two wide, basket-handle-arched carriage doors. A third means of access is that which corresponds to the original entrance of the chapel, set in the west wall and featuring a small porch. This vast area acts as a passageway linking the street, the chapel and the parklands.

The “terraced” parklands

Facing the scrubland and overlooking the Aiguillon Valley, these walled parklands follow the north-sloping lie of the hillside over which they extend. Bordered to the south by the perimeter wall of the chapel, which includes an entrance door, they also have access to the shed. Further to the east, vestiges of an old porch, with two opposing flights of steps, make it possible to access the room above the “crypt”.
Mother nature has regained her freedom and the boxwood as well as the trees of heaven have taken advantage of this open space to grow in the shade of a cedar and pine trees, hundreds of years old.

Our opinion

Despite the moss eating into the fallen stone, the vestiges scattered by the winds and the parklands lying dormant in the depths of darkness, these ruins are an evocative and captivating sight for enlightened, visionary enthusiasts. The senses of such people are fully awakened by the sight of a fresco, the feel of dressed stone, the hot fragrance of pine trees under the midday sun and the cracking of dead wood underfoot, giving rise to man’s secret attraction for ruins and the undertaking of a marvellous rediscovery.
“Post Tenebras Spero Lucem” (Latin for “After darkness, I hope for light”) from the Book of Job (17.12) which inspired the maxim of Jean-Calvin’s illustrious protestant city, has great meaning here. Wounded by the cruel times of French history, compelled to a more supportable oblivion, these premises now await someone following the teaching of the trees of heaven planted in their parklands, growing up towards celestial light.

Exclusive sale

215 000 €
Fees at the Vendor’s expense


See the fee rates

Reference 811733

Land registry surface area 2960 m2
Main building surface area 557 m2
Number of bedrooms 9
Outbuilding surface area 138 m2

French Energy Performance Diagnosis

Consultant


Joël Rozier +33 1 42 84 80 85

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NB: The above information is not only the result of our visit to the property; it is also based on information provided by the current owner. It is by no means comprehensive or strictly accurate especially where surface areas and construction dates are concerned. We cannot, therefore, be held liable for any misrepresentation.

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