The cloister, without a doubt one of the most beautiful in southern France, was erected at the end of the 11th century by Abbot Begon III below the southern part of the church transept. Unfortunately, due to lack of maintenance, it mostly disappeared during the early 19th century. The cloisters served as a quarry for the residents. Prosper Mérimée arrived a few years too late to save it.
The only rescued structures were, on the east side, two small arches opening into the former Chapter House and, on the opposite side, the six twin-bays allowing communication between the western cloister gallery and the monks refectory.
Close to thirty capitals from the lost arcades are now exhibited in the lapidary room, in the Joseph-Fau Museum basement. On the capitals' baskets and abacuses, as well as animal and angelic themes, a world of monk-builders, warriors, acrobats and monkey trainers all invite the visitor to bring this early 12th century society back to life.
THE LARGE CLOISTER BASIN MADE OF SERPENTINE
Finally, the large cloister fountain has been reconstructed and restored with its original elements.
This basin made with a dark-green serpentine, a top quality stone, with the magnificence of its rhythm and sculpted decor, yet without its missing central bronze basin, still represents a monument second to none in all monastic art.
THE ABBOTS’ CHAPEL
Open onto the cloister, the Abbots' Chapel from the 15th century is divided by three bays and includes the choir which ends with a flat apse.
The vault constituting a cross rib-vaulting with pointed arches, carries painted murals characterized by the association of religious and profane themes (based on the Grotesque) and was made during the early part of the 16th century, for the Abbot Antoine de Marcenac.
The representations of the Holy Face and the Holy Tunic, the symbols of the Evangelists in medallions or angel musicians, are set near hybrid creatures or poets' profiles in Roman antiquity style, all set in luxuriant surroundings of flourishes, festoons and volutes.