It floats over waves of dark hills in the Maures mountains, a long thin tawny brown ship with arcades for portholes, rows of roofed cubic cells for living quarters, and the pointed bell tower of its Roman church for pilothouse.
Behind chestnut and holm-oak forests, the La Verne Charterhouse glows in the browns of its Maures schist stones and the greens of its serpentine door frames and vaults.
The history of this monastery is one of turbulence and tenacity. Founded in 1170 over the site of an old presbytery, the La Verne Charterhouse endured ravaging fires, assaults and pillages. After each wave of destruction, it supporters picked up rubbles, cleared ashes and loss, and rebuilt. In 1790, after the French Revolution, the Charterhouse's goods were sequestered and the monks were in the end forced to abandon the monastery.
Classified as a Historical Monument in 1921, it was "adopted" by a group of dedicated friends ("Association des Amis de la Verne") and restored. Since 1983, sisters from the religious order of Béthléem, of l'Assomption de la Vierge and of St Bruno live in the monastery.
Parts of the monastery are open to the public for quiet visits every day 11AM to 5PM, and closed on Tuesdays and during the month of January. In the Porterie room, you'll find fine pottery for sale, all hand-painted by nuns and monks from various monasteries across France (no sale on Sundays).
Getting there: from Grimaud, wiggle your way on winding D14 towards Collobrieres, then D214 to Chartreuse de la Verne.
Monastère de la Verne, 83610 Collobrières, Tel: 04.94.43.48.28