Altitude : 101m
Shops and amenities:
Postcode : 34360
Sites of Interest
The Benedictine abbey with its gardens and cloisters
The abbey church
The parish church and its 18th century organ
The Moulin du Rocher windmill
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
Activities and Economy
The signs all around St Chinian say “20 villages, one appellation”. Anyone studying French wine will know the name of St Chinian, but for all it’s fame in the world of wine, it remains a relatively small if bustling town, particularly in Summer.The market twice a week, and the annual ‘fetes’ are renowned for their relaxed sociability and several times a year, music based events.
CNBC published a list of the 10 best places in the world to retire to and voted St. Chinian in Languedoc Roussillon as 5th best.
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 Today, the abbey has been replaced by the town hall, which boasts spectacular gardens and recently restored cloisters.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.