A soaring bit of hope to lift our spirits, a few hours from Nice, France

Fontfroide Abbey is a haven where you can enjoy homegrown wine and listen to classical music. But the real piece de resistance is the simple, newly restored metal cross that sits atop of the hill.

Cistercian Abbaye of Sainte-Marie de Fontfroide in Narbonne, France.

With harrowing stories from both home and abroad that endlessly fill our newsfeeds and minds, stumbling across this beautiful and reassuring restoration project making it’s way through Facebook was the perk to the heart and soul we needed this morning.

The city of Nice, where tragedy struck last week, can be found along the southeast coast of France. However, on the opposite side of the coastline, 9 miles southwest of Narbonne near to the Spanish border, rests a small abbey located at the bottom of a hill. Fontfroide Abbey, hidden among a rugged and hilly landscape with panoramic natural vistas, is an ancient Cistercian monastery dating back to 1093. For more than a century, Fontfroide Abbey (which could translate to “source of cold” or “cold baptismal font” in English, it’s hard to know) has been in private hands after political upheaval in the region, although, it still retains a sort of peaceful solemnity, with the structure being carefully cherished and restored. It is a little haven where you can go and stay and enjoy the wine grown in its vineyards or listen to some of the regular classical music concerts taking place there. But the real piece de resistance is the simple metal cross that sits atop of the hill, over-looking the abbey, for all to see. A symbol of love, peace and most importantly right now … hope.

The newly restored cross stands tall above the abbey. Abbaye de Fontfroide| Facebook

The cross dates back to 1957 when Martin Cabart, a skilled metalworker, came up with the idea to place a metal cross at the summit of the hill, replacing a wooden cross that had been destroyed in a fire years before. Necessitating over a ton of iron, the people of the region raised money to fund the project. Painstakingly brought up the hill piece by piece, the cross was erected and stood tall, watching over the local residents for many years. But over time, having braved extreme weather conditions, the simple structure needed a little care and restoration. So calling on the locals once more, nearly $18,000 was collected to ensure the cross could stay in place.

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The cross in mid-flight. Abbaye de Fontfroide | Facebook

Finalized at the end of June the now restored heavy cross was a little easier to put in position this time around, thanks to modern technology and the use of flight. Incredibly, the cross was attached to a helicopter and was airlifted into position—a flying cross must have made for a very curious sight indeed! But all the effort and manpower has paid off. The beautiful symbol of sacrifice to man now acts as a reminder of love and as a beacon of hope for all to see.

Cerith Gardiner
Cerith Gardiner
Cerith Gardiner was born in London and has been living in Paris for 14 years. She spends her time working as an English consultant, acting as taxi driver to her four children, and wondering if she'll ever be as stylish as the French.

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