The abbey of Sainte-Marie de Boulaur, located in the Gers department near Toulouse, France, was founded in 1142 and still houses 27 nuns. Today, these Cistercian sisters follow the rule of Saint Benedict: “Pray and work.”
Let’s dive into the whole history of Boulaur Abbey!
The Boulaur Abbey in the Gers near Toulouse, France / Abbey of Boulaur
The Abbey’s Origins
Ven. Petronille de Chemillé, the abbess of the abbey of Fontevraud, founded the Boulaur Abbey. Additional founders include an archbishop, a count, and a widowed countess who became the first abbess.
The beautiful landscapes of the Gers gave the abbey its name. Boulaur comes from the Latin words “Bonus Locus,” which means “The Good Place.”
A More Difficult Period
The French Revolution marked a decisive turning point in the abbey’s history. The state confiscated it and the community was dissolved.
In the 19th century, the Fontevrist nuns tried restoring the abbey, but the anticlerical laws expelled them in 1904.
Again, in 1949, an attempt was made. This time, the Benedictine nuns tried bringing the abbey back to life. They settled there and revived community’s monastic life. Unfortunately, vocations did not come and the future looked very uncertain.
Thank you, Claire!
The situation became complicated in 1979 when the number of sisters dropped to five. The superior of the Cistercian order proposed a solution: to pray to Servant of God Claire de Castelbajac, a local girl who had died in the odor of sanctity a few years prior. Their petition: for vocations to arrive during that year!
The sisters did not believe in it, but obeyed all the same. A few months later, five young girls knocked on the abbey door, the first of whom was named…Claire! Coincidence?
The years became simpler after that!
With its youthfulness, the abbey even gave new life in 1998 to the very old Abbey of Rieunette in France!
Even if during her lifetime Claire de Castelbajac only visited Boulaur Abbey once or twice, the sisters are deeply grateful to her for helping increase vocations and bringing the abbey back to life.
It was therefore natural that they should take charge of her beatification process with the Vatican!
Claire’s body rests at the back of the church and watches over the sisters and the many pilgrims passing by.
Don’t hesitate if you are in the area!
The coffin of Claire de Castelbajac is kept in the abbey’s chapel. / Abbey of Boulaur
The Sisters Today
Today, the community counts 27 sisters, who shine by their dynamism and youth. They organize their days according to the rule of Saint Benedict, alternating between prayer and work.
As far as prayer is concerned, the sisters gather seven times a day for services, the first being at 5:15 a.m.
As for work, they stay busy managing their small agricultural farm, making their monastic crafts. They own almost 70 acres of land!
In addition to manual work, the sisters also have time for study. / Abbey of Boulaur
What the Sisters Do
There is plenty to do at the abbey, and the sisters take their work very much to heart!
With their small herd of ten cows, they make cheese, and with their pigs, chickens, and rabbits, they create delicious pâtés and terrines.
They also make fruit jam from the orchard, as well as buckwheat flour, thanks to their many cultivable acres. They even run a hotel business!
Hats off to them!
The sisters make cheese. / Abbey of Boulaur
How to access the Boulaur Abbey’s Products
The best, of course, is to go directly to the abbey!
Here is the address of the sisters:
Abbaye de Boulaur
32450 Boulaur, France