Saint Etienne Chapel, just south of Saint Hilaire-d'Ozilhan, originated in the 10th century, was rebuilt in the 12th century, severely damaged by an earthquake in the 15th century, and abandonded in the 16th for a new church in the village. It has been lovingly renovated and maintained since 1990 by a local group of volunteers.
Saint Etienne began its life in the 10th century as part of a monastery. It was built following the victory of Charles Martel's armies over the Saracens in the 8th century. The vestiges of the original floors were from the Carolingian origins, the 9th-century empire from the early days of the kingdom of France.
In the 12th century, around 1160, the small monastery was rebuilt, and became the parish church of the new village of St-Hilaire. The corners of the church were strengthened with stones taken from the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, about 6 km to the west.
Chapel at the Chapel
The church was enlarged in 1314 and an adjacent chapel was built, dedicated to Sainte Anne. Following the earthquake in the 15th century, the new, fortified village of St-Hilaire-d'Ozilhan was built at its current location, along with a new village church. At the same time, the Sainte Anne chapel was detached from the La Clastre church and rebuilt near the north side.
The ancient tomb and stones in this photo were at the location of the Sainte Anne chapel, attached to the south side of the Saint Etienne Chapel.
The La Chapelle Saint-Etienne de la Clastre, just south of Saint Hilaire-d'Ozilhan, is accessible from the village with a 10-15 minute walk past vineyards and a very large olive grove.
The chapel has been very nicely restored to approximately its 16th-century form, by a volunteer association based in St-Hilaire-d'Ozilhan. They've been at the job since 1990, researching, restoring and maintaining the site.
Tuesday Visits. The association works at the chapel site every Tuesday during the morning. So if you show up then, the chapel will be open and you can get a welcoming visit and have your questions answered.
The Chapel association has a website (http://www.multi-sources.fr/LaClastre) with some excellent photos taken over the years.
The Saint Etienne Chapel is known locally as La Chapelle Saint-Etienne de la Clastre, and it's located in a very local area south of the village called La Clastre.
La Clastre is a word pretty much unique to the Languedoc Region (although there are rare instances of its use further north in France), and referring to a cloister (cloitre). Originally, la clastre meant enclos, which could refer to the area inside a cloister or to the cloister itself.
An information panel near the chapel describes the colorful history of the site, in French and English. An amusing incorrect translation of la chapelle pré-romane states in English that this is a Pre-Roman chapel. That would, of course, have this little church being built before the advent (or at least the popularity) of Christianity.
The translation should have been to Pre-Romanesque, alluding to an architectural style and not an historical era.