Prieuré d’Orsan (Berry, France)

A view of the gardens at Prieuré d'Orsan
It could be a medieval monastery; but it’s now the potager gardens of a hotel.

A monastic ideal:

A “potager garden” is the French version of a traditional kitchen garden. This style of gardening is meant to produce excellent edibles, but the garden itself is also designed to be beautiful. Flowers, edible and non-edible, are woven through the fruits and vegetables. The result is a companion planting dream.

The monastic gardens of the middle ages would have resembled potagers because for the monks the garden was crucial as their source of food and medicine, but it was also a place of prayerful work and contemplation.

A repurposed monastery garden

In the Loire Valley of France, there was once a monastery called the Prieuré de Notre-Dame D’Orsan (or, in English, the Priory of Our Lady of Orsan). The original monastery was established in 1107. The same site was restored in 1992 for use as an upscale hotel, but the vision for the project was to bring the garden back to its roots. Inspiration was drawn from medieval tapestries and illuminations. Now the winner of multiple awards, the resulting garden is the most charming monastic potager you are likely to find anywhere. It is authentic, but light-heartedly so.

The garden is organic and produces food for the hotel’s restaurant as well as being an attraction for tourists in and of itself. Its designers have perfectly executed the ideal of making a useful garden beautiful. It might have been worth becoming a monk just to stroll prayerfully through such a place and work in its garden.

Take a tour

You can watch a clip from a BBC special on Prieuré d’Orsan here:

The official site for Prieuré d’Orsan maps out the garden with the following features:

1 – The Herb Garden
2 – The Medicinal Herb Garden
3 – The Apple Orchard
4 – The Oak Walk
5 – The Flowered Meadow
6 – The Labyrinth
7 – The Pear Orchard Cloister
8 – Rose Garden
9 – The Wild Flowers Garden
10 – The Vegetable Garden
11 – The Nine Raised Beds
12 – The Berry Path
13 – The Balcony
14 – The Cloister
15 – The Wheat Squares

Below is my pinterest board for Prieuré d’Orsan. If you hover and scroll, you’ll find many images of this beautiful garden.

“Monastic Gardens”
by Mick Hales

Prieuré d’Orsan (Berry, France)
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