The priory is a vast architectural work 50m by 30m. It is made up of a twelfth century church, a thirteenth and fifteenth century priory residence and agricultural outbuildings. The whole complex is built around calade (stone-paved) courtyards surrounded by high walls.
What are visitors' first impressions when they visit the priory? The site is peaceful, and at first glance appears simple. However, visitors quickly discover that it has been inhabited continually over the last 2,000 years, and constantly remodelled during that time The story begins in the Neolithic period, when huts were built on an already fertile site. Traces of them can still be seen today. Next, a Roman villa was built. From late Antiquity, a Christian site replaced the villa. The buildings we can see today bear traces of all the changes made since the construction of the first surviving building, the church, which dates from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries.
The church was built during the eleventh century using limestone from Porchères quarry. It bears the architectural and decorative hallmarks of Provençal Romanesque art: a barrel vault, rosettes, rinceaux, Corinthian-style capitals decorated with acanthus leaves, sculpted panels depicting people or animals (human masks, stag hunting, ram's or bull's heads, the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, etc.).
The fifteenth-century wall painting in the great nave is noteworthy, being the only surviving example from the period. The church also contains an important contemporary work: a series of six stained glass windows by well-known 20th century artist Aurélie Nemours. These stained glass windows, installed in 1998, bathe the church in a light which brings the Romanesque walls to life. The light is the colour of fire, produced by the miracle of selenium – "the only glass capable of producing the purest red," according to the artist.
The priory residence
The vast priory residence has been entirely renovated. It was built in the fifteenth century on the site of a monks' residence. Traces of the medieval period can still be seen today in the Romanesque room (venue for the "Salagon through the ages" exhibition) and the square tower.
Visitors can admire the attractive façade decorated with mullioned windows and the calade (stone-paved) courtyard. Down through the centuries, the residence was home to Benedictine monks, clergymen and rich landowners. Major changes were made to it during the nineteenth century. It was extended in 1857 and the building against the north façade added.