St Hilaire's history, Guided tour, Short anecdotes,
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Saint Hilaire's history
Between Limoux and Carcassonne, the village is bounded to the North by the Lauquet river. Some archaeological remains give an evidence of a roman occupation of this place; but it is the Middle Ages which is more significative for Saint Hilaire because the abbey gave birth to a village...
To protect from the disturbances of the Hundred Year War, the abbots must maintain the village's fortifications: in 1386, a text rules the charge of the town's doorkeys on the one hand and of the monastery on the other hand. In 1574, the village is burnt to a great extent and destroyed by the Protestants of Villar Lord.
In the 18th century, St Hilaire knew also some disturbances under the French Revolution.
Finally, in the 19th century, the rise of wine growing allows construction of new residences, witness of prosperity...
A village is settled in the old medieval surrounding wall, but it seems that originally , it was below the abbey. An 18th century plan shows that the space inside the surrounding wall was reserved to the monastery and its outbuildings: cellar, abbot's house, gardens…
The surrounding wall is on the one hand rectilinear and on the other hand circular. Two fortificated doors allowed the entrance inside the walls: the Malecaze door to the North and the Fort door to the South.
The beginning of the Abbey is uncertain. Its first reference is a text dating from 825: at this date, the abbey owns the corpse of Saint Hilaire
In the 9th century , a deed of Louis le Débonnaire ratifies Charlemagne's gifts and allows the monks to elect their abbot.
Since the 13th century, the abbey is protected by the Counts of Carcassonne ( Lauquet battle and St Hilaire's legend), but during the crusade against the Cathars, the monks are accused of heresy and they lose their autonomy.
During the 14th century, a pontifical bull accounts for financial problems of the monastery where lived 29 monks, so the bishop of Carcassonne reduces it to 20 monks. An other bull of the 14th century accounts again for difficulties of the abbey, especially because of the Hundred Year Wars and the ravages of the Black Death.
In the 16th century, the abbey is under the "Commende*" and knows so many financial difficulties and that's why, in the 18th century, Monseigneur de Bezons, bishop of Carcassonne, closes the abbey. Later on, the inhabitants of St Hilaire desert the parish church in aid of the abbey church. At the end of this century, the outbuildings and possessions of the abbey are sold.
*La Commende : During the Concordat of Bologne in 1516, François the 1st obtains, thanks to the Pope Léon X, the full authority on the monks. So , the king nominates the abbot and consequently the monks cannot elect their abbot. Those abbots are aristocrats who do not lead a monastic life. Most of the time, they do not live in the abbey. Their avidity let the monks irretrievably ruined. (BOUTTIER Michel : Monastères, des pierres pour la prière. Coll.Patrimoine Vivant, Association Rempart. Desclée de Brouwer, Cahors 2000. )