The monastery of St. Ganagobie in Provence, France, is located on a limestone plateau surrounded by sheer cliffs and overlooks the River Durance. The site is so commanding that it has been occupied since the Bronze Age. Stonemasons built a monastery here almost 1,000 years ago using local stone and wielding tools that an ancient Egyptian would recognize. A community never exceeding 13 monks has lived in the monastery almost continuously since its construction.
It’s the sort of place that suggests refuge in a troubled world.
I visited St. Ganagobie on a recent December afternoon, when the monastery was covered in snow. Drawing allows me to see things I never noticed before, so as I sat in bone-chilling wind on a frozen stone wall, I wondered what ink and watercolor would uncover. I saw that the plateau was a vast space where the saw-toothed Alps merged with the sky. Ravens floated above the cloister, and lavender plants lay dormant in the snow. St. Ganagobie seemed small, almost cozy, in this spectacular setting, a hulk of yellow stone with intricate carvings about the entrance.
See more sketches by other architects and designers at https://www.architects.org/architectureboston/articles/issue-sit-look-sketch