In order to ensure financial independence, some French monasteries have dusted off old recipes and resumed the art of distillation. These monasteries, often located in wilderness areas, produce herbal liqueurs, some of which have acquired an international reputation.
The Grande Chartreuse Monastery is the first monastery as well as the headquarters of the hermit monks of the Carthusian order. The legend of the foundation of the monastery tells that a group of several monks, guided by Bishop Hugues de Grenoble (1080 to 1132), settled in the Chartreuse valley in June 1084. Since the 19th century, the Grande-Chartreuse community has been known to oversee the production of the popular Chartreuse liqueur, as well as Gentian.
The Fécamp Abbey is a Benedictine abbey that was founded in the 7th century as a pilgrimage centre for the Precious Blood of Christ. From the 11th century, Benedictine monks settled there at the instigation of the Duke of Normandy who had their ducal castle in Fécamp. The abbey presents a primitive Gothic style with some Romanesque chapels and interesting interior decorations from the 15th and 16th centuries. The abbey is well known as the birthplace of the Benedictine liqueur, whose recipe was rediscovered in 1863 by a local merchant.
Notre-Dame d'Aiguebelle Abbey is a Cistercian abbey that was founded in 1137. The abbey reached its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries, then declined with the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453). The abbey was heavily restored during the 19th century but most of the buildings of the medieval convent are still standing, despite some demolitions. The abbey is now known to be the site of the production of a brandy, made according to an ancient craft recipe developed by Cistercian monks.
Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey is a Cistercian monastery founded in 1148, and became an abbey in 1150. In 1544, during the Wars of Religion, the monastery was burnt down by the Waldensians and the convent building destroyed. At the end of the 17th century, there were only two monks left in Senanque. After losing its original vocation, the abbey was bought by the abbot of Lérins, Dom Barnouin, in 1857. It was only in 1926 that convent life resumed uninterrupted in Sénanque, now the priory of Lérins Abbey. The monastery is known for the production of the liqueur of Sénacole, from 19 plants that bloom in the Provencal valley of the abbey of Sénanque.
The Abbey Sainte-Marie du Désert is a Trappist monastery founded in 1852, on a hermitage dating from the 12th century. In 1109, Marie Desclassan, a young nobleman, retired to the Herm Valley to live there as a hermit. She died in 1117, and her tomb became a place of pilgrimage under the name of Sainte-Marie-de-l'Herm. The chapel built on the site, spared by the Hundred Years' War, was destroyed during the French Revolution. In 1819, the parish priest of a neighbouring village rebuilt the chapel which revived the pilgrimage and eventually attracted a Cistercian community. The abbey has a small production of craft products, including mead.
The island of Lérins is a former eremitical site active since the 5th century, but the present abbey of Lérins was built between the 11th and 14th centuries. The abbey was fortified and also housed a garrison as it was exposed to pillaging by Mediterranean pirates. The abbey has been in uninterrupted activity since the 1860s after being closed during the French Revolution. However, this construction replaced another monastery that had existed since the 5th century and which would have been founded by Honoratus who gave his name to the island. The abbey of Lérins produces, among other things, a famous mandarin liqueur.