The monastery of St Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy de Provence was built in the 11th century and is a feast of Romanesque architecture with chapter houses, tranquil cloisters and manicured formal gardens. The monastery also had an asylum (maison de santé) run by the monks and nuns, which is most famous for being the year-long refuge of artist Vincent Van Gogh after he suffered with mental problems in 1889 and – famously – sliced off his ear.
While Van Gogh recuperated in St Paul-de-Mausole, he fell in love with the light of Provence and went through a wildly productive period, creating nearly 250 drawings and oil paintings in just over a year, including his best-loved masterpieces The Irises, Starry Night and Room in Arles. Appearing to be at the peak of his powers, tragically he declined when he left the safety and comfort of St Paul-de-Mausole and took his own life just two months later in July 1890.
Today St Paul-de-Mausole is still a functioning psychiatric health institution but in homage to the great artist also has a bleak reproduction of the room in which he was confined – he painted the view of the wheat fields from this room 15 times – and a small exhibition on the history of the asylum.
Located at Chemin Saint-Paul in Saint-Rémy de Provence, the site is open daily with hours of 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. from April to October and from 10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. from November to March. Admission costs €3.80 for adults and €2.80 for seniors, students and children between the ages of 12 and 16. Kids under 12 enter for free. Saint-Rémy is 30 minutes south of Avignon by car.