ABBEY OF SAINT-BENOÎT-DU-LAC / SAINT-GILBERT-ENTRE-LES-LOUPS
This was the near mythical monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The home of two dozen cloistered, contemplative monks. Who had built their abbey as far from civilization as they could get.
It has taken hundreds of years for civilization to find them, but the silent monks had had the last word.
Twenty-four men had stepped beyond the door. It had closed. And not another living soul had been admitted.
Until today. (The Beautiful Mystery, Chapter Two)
Among the most memorable—and visually stunning!—real places in Louise Penny’s canon is the Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, the locale that inspired the fictional Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups. The religious affiliation and events of the book bear no resemblance to the Benedictine Monks of the real abbey, as explained by Louise: “it became clear in researching [The Beautiful Mystery] that I couldn’t set the book in a monastery, or even an order, that really existed, so I dug into history and found the Gilbertines, an order that actually once existed, but went extinct.”
Situated on the shores of Lake Memphremagog, the real abbey was built in 1912 by Benedictine Monks fleeing the anti-clerical laws in France. The magnificent monastery was commissioned in 1938 with plans provided by the renowned architect and fellow monk, Dom Paul Bellot.
The monks themselves, numbering about 50 in all, devote themselves to obedience and prayer, and are keen practitioners of Gregorian Chant (See the video below).
While very cerebral and spiritual, the Benedictines believe “one must live by the work of one’s hands.” The monks operate their own orchard and cheese factory and the products of their harvest can be purchased at the Boutique de L’Abbaye. Don’t miss “Le Moine,” a cheese very similar to gruyere or the “Bleu Bénédictin,” a soft blue cheese. They also make superb ciders from their own apples—a sweet non-alcoholic blend and their specialty, Le Kir Abbatial, which is a hard cider that pairs exceptionally well with desserts.
If you’re planning on visiting the abbey, make a day of it. Walk the exquisite grounds, attend a mass—whether you’re secular or religious—there’s nothing quite like it; admire the architecture of the Abbey itself; or, if you’re really in search of solitude, stay the night!
For more information, please visit: https://www.abbaye.ca/en/
Music is a central theme in The Beautiful Mystery. In fact, Louise has said, “a piece of music can transport us to another place and time, and not just evoke that memory, but the emotion. It can inspire great courage, and reduce us to tears.”
Did the Gregorian Chant of the Benedictine Monks evoke any memories and emotions for you?
The Beautiful Mystery is the first of Louise’s books set wholly outside of Three Pines. How did you feel about this?
54 replies on “THE REAL PLACES OF THREE PINES: THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY”
the ending of this book was disheartening. I have worked in medicine for the last 43years. The past 11 in neurology. Jean Guy and Gamache have developed into strong characters. I understand drug addiction well. The end of this book did not fit Jean Guy character. I do understand what you tried to do, but I feel it has hurt my love of the series.
Knihy Luise Penny jsou úžasné.Jsem z české republiky a dceru mám 30 let v Torontu.
This is my favorite book. I have read it and listened to it many times.
I find the chants very peaceful. The writing is so good that I can picture the things she writes about in this book. A place I would love to visit.
[…] The Beautiful Mystery, Chief Inspector Gamache travels to the monastery of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups, to investigate the death of a renowned choir director. Tucked into the wilderness, the monastery […]
I have been working on a report featuring THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY for my book club program. Our theme for the year is “Historical Novels” and I chose this book for the wonderful representation of Gregorian Chant, which will softly underscore my presentation. Thanks to everyone for their comments. They confirmed what I have written. My daughter introduced me to Louise Penny and has the whole “Gamache”set. Together we have read and reread them. Mrs. Penny is an extraordinary writer, and we can’t wait to read her latest installment, just out!
I love Louise Penny and her writings – can’t wait for the latest book which is out – I borrow them from our library – I also love Gregorian Chants and the Eastern Townships – I live out west now but would go back to the Townships in a heartbeat if my kids weren’t here in the west – grew up on the island of MTL – spent many a day traveling through the townships on the way to grandparents and family in New Hampshire and Vermont – my brother went to Stanstead College – truly miss the place – lucky are you who live there still
And the Cheese!!!!
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The Beautiful Mysteries caught my breath with its descriptions of the monastery and the life of prayer. The music…I can only imagine. I missed the villagers of Three Pines but we all need a retreat now and then 😉 I’m currently rereading and savoring the series in anticipation of the new book in November. Namaste.
This is my first book I’ve read in the series and I loved it so much! I will be reading the rest of the books now. It’s wonderful to have a series where the regularly appearing characters have their own changes and growth. Brava, Ms. Penney!!! Thank you for a most interesting book.
I found this book because I sing in a Latin Mass schola and love Gregorian chant and was interested to see whether Gregorian chant is ever featured in fiction. I found another book, a children’s book: Trouble at the Scriptorium by Anne Johnson. It is also a mystery.
The Abbey one of our favourite places , the Monks hospitable and congenial as well as marvellously musical. Their cd of Gregorian chant is the cd I love to play at night .
Didn’t any one else catch the nod to Monty Python? “Jeez,” said Beauvoir. “The Inquisition. I didn’t expect that.” “No one does,” said Gamache.”
This is my seventh Penny book — all out of order but that does not bother me (I am one of those people who could read the ending of a book first and find it motivating to read the rest afterwards). Louise Penny’s richly-drawn and engaging reads have seen me through this chillingly cold winter. I have told all my reading friends to get started– to meet and appreciate Gamache, et. al– and that they won’t be disappointed with their time spent together.
What is the best way to travel to this Monastery from the Midwest?
Oh! I like this book! But I’l Reading it in french because my english is not good enough and I regrette !
I’ve never been to Saint-Benoît-du-Lac but I once typeset and helped publish a short book about the architect, Dom Bellot – as soon as I started reading The Beautiful Mystery I had the real abbey firmly in mind. You evoked it superbly.
I also began with The Beautiful Mystery. I was so captivated with the story that I had to start at the beginning. Louise Penny is my new favorite author. Thank you, Louise, for so may hours of pleasure.
While I loved the setting and the references to the music, I have to say that I was disappointed – no, more than that, I was outraged! – that so many ends were left hanging, requiring that I read the next book in the series to tie up those ends! At the very least, readers should have been warned that it was “part 1 of 2” before starting to read!!!
I loved the Beautiful Mystety and felt the pull of it even as Beauvoir did.
I have read all of Louise’s book, and although I have loved them all, I have to say that A Beautiful Mystery is by far my favorite. Although, like of some of the other readers, the ending was very upsetting and I thought about it for days, the beauty of the abbey, and the chants, which I have listened to, made up for the sadness . I would love to visit the abbey…..I live very far away, in South Carolina, but maybe, Some day.
I started reading Louise Penney’s books two years ago, beginning with Still Life. I immediately fell in love with CI Gamache and all the residents of Three Pines. Not only do I own all the books, but I also have the audio books so beautifully read by the late Ralph Cosham. It may sound absurd, but the residents of Three Pines have become my friends and I was never angrier, or sadder, than when Jean Guy turned on CI Gamache in The Beautiful Mystery. I’m counting the days until August 25th.
Bonjour, I am visiting Quebec as a result of the series. How do I access the complete list of real places. Merci, Nancy
They all appear here: http://gamacheseries.wpengine.com/