As many of you know from my posts of last year’s trip to France, Plombières-les-Bains was one our favorite discoveries, a beautiful city reminiscent of Italy, tucked away in the forests of the Vosges, with thermal baths that were enjoyed already in Roman times. We have yet to try them, as mid-summer temperatures don’t really make them sound appealing.

We made a number of trips there again this year and one day, we set out from there for another brave, daring adventure, following inviting roads until we saw a sign for the hermitage of Hérival.  The road grew narrower and narrower (and if you know French back roads, that meant quite narrow).  We began to wonder whether the signs had lied, but finally we saw what looked like the priory.

© janet m. webb

What was I thinking, cutting off the top of that cross??

Driving up to it, we couldn’t see anywhere that looked like a parking spot, so we drove on.  Eventually, my s-i-l had to make a number of tortured mini-turns so that we could go back, only to find the same thing.  However, there were cars inside the area partially surrounded by buildings and we could see people.  So we parked on the grass and walked in.

What we discovered was the Priory, built around 1080, that vanished during the Revolution about 1800, leaving only the guesthouse of the former, 18th century, priory, (thank you, Wikipedia and Google Translate!) is now an artists’ community.

© janet m. webb

Turns out, there was a definite connection between Plombières and the priory. Wikipedia goes on:

The church, now extinct, and the conventual buildings were sold to Claude-Joseph Remy on the 28th of Nivose, year III / 17th January 1795, for the sum of 16,600 livres.

The buyer did not know what to do with these vast buildings (there is not even one third left today), decided to dismantle them stone by stone. This is how they were used to the great renovation of Plombières-les-Bains, in the nineteenth century.

At the end of the Revolution, Hérival became a commune until 1832, when it was attached to the commune of Val d’Ajol.

Hérival was one of the favorite excursions of Napoleon III. The treaty of Plombieres between Napoleon III and the Count of Cavour was largely evoked during these walks.

I’m not sure what sort of monks inhabited the priory, but they certainly had a beautiful view to contemplate when they contemplated.

© janet m. webb

Looking back at the buildings

Although this face looks as if it might have contemplated the monks in return, I’m quite sure it’s one of the art pieces decorating the area.  The others that I photographed will be featured this Saturday.

© janet m. webb

This writer put it nicely (again from Wikipedia courtesy of Google Translate):

In Les Vosges by Jean-Joseph Bellel1 Theophile Gautier wrote of Hérival: “What a pleasure to dream nonchalantly in the middle of this delightful landscape, far from the importunate, in a solitude whose silence is only disturbed by Birds and bees. Oh what a sweet life one would lead to in this calm retreat! (…) It seems that misfortune would never find you in this dark and peaceful asylum … (…) Everything has delighted your eyes, and you see with regret the sun disappear behind the mountain; You want the night to lower its veil on all these marvels.

  1. ledrakenoir says:

    Excellent post here, Janet, The Vosges area include so much and it isn’t easy to stop when the exploring is started. 🙂

    • That’s why every year we find new things and places, as well going back to some that we’ve enjoyed before. One thing I enjoyed this year was exploring the mountains a bit more, which I’ll get to one of the days in a post. 🙂 Not many seem to know about the Vosges, but it’s well worth getting to know.

  2. Sue says:

    What a beautiful place, Janet!

  3. Oh what a wonderful and interesting find. I loved seeing it through your eyes!

  4. Beautiful scenery and history. It’s nice that you travel the roads of France while taking us with you. 🙂

    • I’m happy that all of you enjoy traveling with me. I have a fair bit left of my French trip and haven’t really done posts about anything else since I got back, so lots of material. 🙂


  5. Dan Antion says:

    What a beautiful place. Great photos. The stone face has such an interesting expression. I’m picturing you saying “Hey, how about a little smile?”

  6. What an enchanting place to discover! I’m looking forward to Saturday’s delights!

  7. marianallen says:

    What a beautiful spot, both the landscape and the buildings! I love the stone face!

    • I like one, too, Marian. It’s a gorgeous spot, but a very long way from anywhere, great if you’re a monk, but maybe not so good for everyone else. It is, however, very peaceful in addition to being beautiful.


  8. An unsung destination with untold hidden treasures. For all the visitors passing through the nearby area around this time of year, you never hear about this spot. Thanks for bringing it to light!

  9. thirdeyemom says:

    Looks like a beautiful French town, Janet!

  10. joey says:

    What a charming place 🙂 I love the concept, the view, and that rock face.

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