Centenary of the Archdiocese of Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe

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Skite Sainte Foy

Tell us about the Skite Sainte Foy

The Skite Sainte Foy, founded in 1996, is located in the Cevennes in Saint-Julien-des-Points, a small village of 104 inhabitants at the gates of the Vallee Longue. It is presented as a fortified mas in shale stones with openings on an interior courtyard. Built on a rock, it overlooks the valley and offers a magnificent view from all sides. The skite is located in the middle of a three hectare property.

Sainte Foy was martyred in the 3rd century at the age of 12, beheaded because she did not want to worship Roman idols. Sainte Foy is the patron saint of children and desperate causes. The ruins of Sainte Foy castle dominate the Vallee Longue, they are located in front of our windows. The skite is built on a rocky outcrop, at a place called Le Verdier. In Le Verdier there are Gallo-Roman and Celtic remains; it was already a place of worship before Christianity. In the 12th century there was a signal tower which has a 360° view, going from the Col de Jalcreste, the watershed, to the castle of Portes which is located on the Regordane, a path that joins the path from Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle to Puy-en-Velay. In the 16th century, the Verdier became a Benedictine priory dependent on the Saint Victor abbey in Marseille, it served as a toll station on a mule track with a garrison of 15 men, which explains the huge bread oven. During the French Revolution in 1789 the priory was sold as a national asset and became a fortified farm. In 1996, we bought Le Verdier; no one had lived there regularly for over 10 years.

The monastery

Have you done any restorations?

We had to carry out a lot of restoration work and adapt the buildings to a monastic community. We were well received by the people of the village because one of the monks is from the Cevennes. They saw us working and staying in winter. We have had the slate roofs restored by local craftsmen, we have adapted the buildings to European safety and hygiene standards. The chapel, in the former silkworm farm, was decorated with frescoes by Yaroslav Dobrynine, stained glass windows by Henry Guérin, a mosaic by Michel Patrizio, embroidery by Emmanuelle Vernoux. Since 2000 we have been part of VMF (Vieilles Maisons Françaises). We have created an organic vegetable garden on the advice of Pierre Rabhi and an orchard with old species, adapted to the region. We have a spring which flows all year round and we are at an altitude of 360m, which explains why we have olive trees and almond trees… We have restored dry stone walls with the help of pilgrims. We have participated in the creation of a Green Lane which runs alongside the estate. We have received awards for the quality of the restorations. The skite participates in: European Heritage Days, Garden Time, Art Crafts Days, Country Heritage Days….

Can you tell us about daily life at Skite Sainte Foy?

Having lived in Mount Athos, Stavronikita Monastery and in the Judean Desert at Saint Sabba Lavra, we try to follow the rule of the monks as in a monastery although we are few monks. Every day we have to adapt to unforeseen events especially visitors. We celebrate with slavic melodies the divine Liturgy on Tuesday or Thursday at 9 am, Sunday and on feast days at 10 am, with Vigils the day before at 8:30 p.m. For a normal day we get up at 4 am to recite our prayer canon in the cell. Each monk has a prayer canon, given by his spiritual father, to be recited every day: large and small metania, holy readings. Then in summer at 6 am (in winter at 7 am) we celebrate the office of Matins and Lauds in the chapel with the reading of the Apostle and the Gospel of the day. We then have breakfast together, a brother reads a short extract from the rule of the monks. In summer we work outside from 9 am to 11 am, after it is too hot, in winter we work outside from 10 am to 12 pm, before it is too cold! We share the meal, we eat the vegetables from the garden. We practice a light fast on Monday, Wednesday and Friday except in Lent where each day is a day of fasting. We celebrate the service of None after the dishes. In winter we do work from 2 pm to 5 pm with Vespers at 5:30 pm. In summer we have a moment of solitude after None to resume service around 3 p.m. and then celebrate Vespers at 7 pm. After Vespers we water the vegetable garden, the fruit trees, the flowers… then we take a few foods separately, each according to his needs and around 8:30 pm we celebrate Compline in the crypt. Then we return to the great silence of the night.

We have three feasts at the monastery: Sainte Foy on October 6, Saint Martin on November 11 and Saint Sabba, to whom the church is dedicated, on December 5. We have many relics.

We are currently two monks, a priest in the sanctuary and a brother in the choir, which requires a lot of preparation and vigilance. We must do everything: prepare the church, the meals, clean the brass, the windows, the floors ... take care of the garden, cut the grass of a 3 hectare property, maintain the trees, confess, welcome the guests , give interviews ... For reading during the meal for example if one monk reads, the other eats ... in the long term it is not bearable. We chose to have a monk who reads a spiritual text for a few minutes and then share the meal together. When there are several guests, we prolong the reading and when the pilgrims wash the dishes, the reader eats in silence. Each situation is adapted to events and the unexpected.

The Chapel

What is your income ?

We don’t live of hospitality although it’s a sizeable income; we don’t want selection by money. We make a living from our work: selling books, collage icons, jams, photos, calligraphy. We offer some workshops . Much of the food comes from the estate. The faithful in exchange for fruits and vegetables give us oil, coffee, sugar, which is barter. Every month we experience a miracle. Brother Jean has written several books: Pelerinage au Mont Athos (Pilgrimage to Mount Athos) - Pierres vivantes (Living Stones) - Un Jardin en Lozere ( A garden in the Lozere) - Fondation du Skite Sainte Foy en Cevennes (Foundation of the skite) – Signes de Lumière (Signs of light- Russian translation) Recettes du Monastere ( Recipes of the monastery) - Art Sacre (Sacred Art)…( all books in French)

Who can come to the monastery?

We welcome for a retreat Orthodox pilgrims. For Holy Communion we obey the canonical rules. We also welcome members of the Fraternity Saint Martin which is an association that brings together artists: painters, writers, musicians, dancers, poets ... artisans, peasants, cooks ... people who testify to their faith by their works. The association publishes a review: Art Sacre. The members of the association come for a retreat to share the monastic life and the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. They sometimes have a question, but they often come to be silent, to recharge their batteries, to write a book, to prepare a show…

Visit by appointments only: 04 66 45 42 93 from Tuesday to Friday from 2 pm to 5 pm Decent attire is required. It is possible, by appointment, to attend monastic services or the divine Liturgy every day. You should always call before coming.

Saint-Julien-des-Points is located in Lozere, 25 km from Ales, 40 km from Florac, on the N 106. The village of Sainte-Cécile-d’Andorge, 1km away (in the Gard) has a SNCF (train) station on the line: Paris-Marseille, via Clermont-Ferrand.

By car, coming from Ales, take the 2nd road on the right after the bridge at the sign: "Skite Ste Foy". Latitude of the skite 44.2515 - Longitude: 3.95692 - GPS: Le Verdier