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Le Bréal et le clocher - patrimoine - rivière - du Canal du Midi au Saint-Chinian

© Office de tourisme du canal du Midi au Saint-Chinian

Around thirty kilometres from the Mediterranean coast and in the heart of Languedoc Roussillon, follow the scent of the garrigue scrubland right to the foothills of the Cévennes mountains. Blanketed in vines, you can glimpse Saint Chinian in the distance from the Fontjun pass.

Packed with small courtyards and narrow alleyways, this village’s heritage is intricately bound to the appellation that bears its name - the Saint-Chinian AOC.

The best way to explore everything the village has to offer is to wander around it, starting from the Promenade. This central square sits amid the shade of plane trees and is a pleasant spot that encapsulates the overall laid-back feel of the village. Every Thursday and Sunday it plays host to numerous local producers. Under the hum of the cicadas, visitors can stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, olives, oysters and homemade produce. Don’t miss highlights such as pétanque competitions, garage sales, the Easter fair, the Fête du Cru vintage wine festival, the Christmas market and other traditional celebrations! Check our calendar to learn more about what’s on during your stay in Saint Chinian.

An absolute must-see is the Maison des Vins, a showcase of all the Saint-Chinian AOC wines located just a few metres from the Promenade. This appellation covers a patchwork of terroirs spread across 20 villages, 100 independent wine cellars and 8 wine cooperatives. Visitors can browse through over 300 labels and enjoy tasting sessions led by local producers in the summer, as well as “discovery” or introductory tasting workshops.

Have you seen the spectacular town hall gardens? With its impressive magnolias and its fountain, they are the perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Just round the corner, the tourist office is open all year round and is happy to provide information about the top attractions and the guided tours on offer. With places such as the old Benedictine abbey and its cloisters, the parish church and its listed organ, the Salabert bread oven, and the Canal de l’Abbé, to name just a few, there’s some spectacular heritage to explore.

Lovers of the great outdoors are in for a real treat up in the hills, where they will come across clapas (piles of stones), capitelles (dry-stone huts) and vineyards.

Walkers can do a circuit of the capitelles by taking the footpath from the mill which winds its way between vines, garrigue scrubland and small stone huts. From the village, two 10 km signposted footpaths take you deep into wine-growing land (footpath no.44: “Les Clapas”, leaving from the Promenade) or across forests (footpath no.43: “Sorteilho”, leaving from the wine growers’ cellar).

Mountain bikers can venture out onto one of 6 mountain biking routes. Set off from outside the wine growers’ cellar or the Maison des Vins for exhilarating rides to suit all levels.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or well-versed in horse riding, why not saddle up and explore the lush green valley of Vernazobres and its garrigue scrubland and vineyards on horseback or on a donkey?

After all this excitement, make sure you kick back and relax in in some top-quality accommodation. Saint Chinian offers a host of options in an unspoilt setting, so why not venture out and explore whichever of the local restaurants, shops and services take your fancy?

Its history:

In the year 826, Saint Chinian hosted one of the region’s first Benedictine abbeys, which was dedicated to Saint Anian. The population gradually started to gather around the monastery to form the village of Saint-Anian d’Holotian. Pronounced “Sanch Inhan” in Occitan, it naturally became known as Saint Chinian. Today, the abbey has been replaced by the town hall, which boasts spectacular gardens and recently restored cloisters.

Saint Chinian endured a number of religious wars. Twice destroyed, the village was resurrected in the 17th century thanks to the water that was present in Saint Chinian. Numerous mills (fulling, wheat and oil) were powered by the Canal de l’Abbé, a bypass of the Vernazobres that can still be seen today. Although the first vines were planted towards the 8th century, economic activity at that time was mainly focused on the textile industry, which lasted until the 19th century. Spinning and dyeing facilities were established, while Colbert (a minister of Louis XIV) installed two royal factories in the town. These products were then sent to adorn wealthy customers from the East, particularly in the Ottoman Empire, and you can still see some of the buildings as you walk through the village. Hidden away from the streets, you’re sure to come across beautiful interior courtyards, vaulted corridors and spiral staircases.

Over time, the economy began to shift towards agriculture, focusing on grain, olive trees, oil-related professions and, of course, vines and wine. In 1880, the textile industry died out and gave way to wine production. The old mills and workshops were replaced by small wine-growing businesses, sulphur mills or distilleries.  Wealthy wine-growing estate owners abandoned the historical centre and built the Folies Languedociennes outside of the town. Since 1954, the vineyards have focused on high-quality production, introducing a succession of various designations and giving rise in 1982 to the Saint-Chinian AOC, one of the finest vintages in Languedoc Roussillon.

The parish church also harbours another of the village’s treasures – a remarkable 18th century organ attributed to Micot. This unique organ, which was listed as a historical monument in 1976, has around 20 stops distributed across three manual keyboards and one pedal. A number of organised concerts breathe new life into this incredible artefact.

Don’t miss:

  • The Benedictine abbey with its gardens and cloisters
  • The abbey church
  • The parish church and its 18th century organ
  • A stroll along the Canal de l’Abbé or towards the Moulin du Rocher mill
  • A walk along the path of the capitelles (dry-stone huts)
  • The panoramic views from the Fontjun pass and from the Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth chapel
  • The Salabert bread oven
  • A wine-tasting session at the Maison des Vins or at a wine-grower’s estate
  • The Fête du Cru vintage wine festival on the 3rd Sunday in July
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