Provençal origins anchored in the history of Saint Victor's abbey
The vineyards of Notre-Dame pull their name of the eponym chapel and vestiges of the priory. The chapel Notre-Dame, built in the 11th century, was given by the Lord of Brue in the year 1079 to the monks of saint Victor's abbey in Marseille. The monks of saint Victor established a priory there and contributed to the development of the place, in particular by the clearing and the exploitation of the plots of land surrounding the chapel. It is likely that their influence extended up to the lands of the Bastide as the whole territory of Brue was placed under their custody at that time. We inherit of their hard labour, and the grapes we harvest nowadays carry, between the lines, the mark of these men and women who preceded us, and who have been able to bring to light and maintain this exceptional terroir.
About saint Victor's abbey in Marseille
According to the tradition, the monastery was established by Jean Cassien. After a long stay with the monks anchorites of Egypt, he lands in Marseille in 416. Cassien stays in Marseille until he dies between 433 and 435. He gathers followers and writes important works which are of use as rule of life and as base of reflection to those whom attracts the monasticism. His works know a strong echo and were recommended by saint Benoît to his followers.
He would have based in Marseille two monasteries: one for the women, the abbey Saint-Sauveur who was situated in the South of Lenche square, the other one for the men in the South of the Vieux-Port, the abbey Saint Victor.
Their urban vocation, their visibility, quickly made it important and prestigious places of training, contributing to the fame of the spiritual life of Marseille in 5th century. The doctrinal positions contributed to create a real school of the priests of Marseille and to arouse numerous theological debates.
After this brilliant period, we enter for the more animated period, linked in particular to the Arab-Muslim invasion. In 838, a Saracen fleet come probably from Spain plunders the city and takes in captivity clerks and moniales. Saint Victor is destroyed. In 848, it is the Greek pirates who destroy the city. In 923, the Saracens, landed in the massif of the Moors, destroy again Saint Victor's abbey. The bishop of Marseille leaves the city to take refuge in Arles.
This long period of turbulences and abandonment of monasteries ends when Guillaume Ier, count of Provence and Arles, nicknamed the "Liberator" pushes away definitively the Saracens in Garde-Freinet in 972. The peace returns in Provence.
At the end of this period, the life gets organized in Marseille between three stable powers, the viscounts of Marseille, the bishop and the abbot of Saint Victor. In 976, bishop Honorat leaves the monastery and a new monastic community re-forms. He introduces on this occasion the rule of Saint Benoît to the monastery.
This installation of the Benedictines inaugurates a brilliant period for Saint Victor, under the direction of remarkable men as abbots Wilfred (1005-1020) and Isarn (1020-1047).
The strong radiation of the abbey is also due to the links which unite the abbots of Saint Victor to the viscounts of Marseille and to the Provençal aristocracy, what favors the increase of its temporal power and its land hereditament. During this period when the abbey exercises a profound spiritual and cultural influence in Provence in full political and religious reorganization, the territorial possessions of the abbey increase considerably: only in the diocese of Marseille, 440 churches and priories depend on Saint Victor in the XIth and XIIth centuries. The abbey also counts dependences in those of Aix, Fréjus-Toulon, Riez, Gap, Embrun and Vaison-la-Romaine. The Saint Perpetue monastery, known as "abbey of La Celle" where Garsende de Sabran, mother of the count of Provence Raimond Bérenger IV, withdrew in 1225, is also St Victor's priory. The abbey also possesses domains in the dioceses of Auvergne, Languedoc, in Bigorre and in Catalonia (Barcelona).
Little by little, they spread out through all the viscounty, create more than sixty priories and become one of the main agricultural planners of the South of Provence. More than about sixty monks and twenty novices live in the abbey. Saint Victor becomes again a big spiritual center and of training.
Saint Victor benefits from an exceptional advantage by being directly linked to the Holy See and not to the bishop, thanks to a bubble of pope Léon IX. This exemption in the jurisdiction of the bishop is confirmed by the following popes. The popes give mandate to the abbey to reform number of old monasteries. Cardinal during his election in 1079, Richard de Millau becomes a papal legate Grégoire VII. Appointed an archbishop of Narbonne, he continues to manage the community. The abbots of Saint Victor become in the XIth century the most powerful men of the region. In 1073, it is Raymond, a monk of the abbey who becomes a bishop of Marseille.
From the middle of the XIIth century, difficulties appear, when Provence becomes a stake between the counts of Toulouse and the kings of Aragon. The income of priories and churches returns little or badly. The abbey has to use loans and is in the last quarter of the XIIth century crushed by debts.
On June 25th, 1188, a papal bubble prescribes a better administration, but the situation continues to degrade and the discipline loosens: absence of common life, not observed wish of poverty and library made waste.
At the beginning of the XIIIth century, the reconstruction of a new abbey church is undertaken, at the instigation of Hugues de Glazinis.
In 1214, a priest of Marseille, master Pierre, has the idea to build on the hill called "The Guarding", a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This hill belonging to Saint Victor's abbey, master Pierre asks to the abbot for the authorization to begin works. The abbot authorizes him to plant vineyards there, to cultivate a garden and to build a chapel which will become later the basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
Guillaume de Grimoard, abbot of Saint Victor in 1361, is appointed a pope in 1362 under the name of Urbain V. He confirms the postage of the episcopal jurisdiction, Saint Victor depends directly on the pope.
The enrichments due to Urbain V mark one of the last big periods of the abbey, which suffers, as the rest of Provence and city, devastation of the plague (1348), then the ceaseless conflicts and the multiple disasters of the Hundred Years' War. It is only after 1430 that the life is gradually reborn. At the beginning of the XVth century, the abbey gives asylum to said antipope Pierre de lune Benoît XIII who had had to run away from Avignon before getting back to Spain.
From the XVIth century, the victorins monks break the rule of their holy founder Benoît. Monks leave the monastery and prefer the city where they accommodate.
In 1648, pope Innocent X give the fate of the monastery of Marseille to the congregation Benedictine of Saint-Maur who had founded the monasteries of Montmajour, Saint-Denis and Saint-Germain des Prés.
On July 13th, 1726, pope Benoît XIII sets up Saint Victor as a collective church the chapter of which consists of an abbot, a bard, a treasurer and sixteen canons. By the secularization, the monks become canons.
The last abbot of Saint Victor is prince Louis François Camille of Lorraine Lambesc. He dies in 1787 and is not replaced yet when bursts the Revolution.
As for numerous religious constructions, the abbey becomes national property in 1791. In 1794, the abbey and both churches are deprived of their treasures, the relics are burned, gold and silver serve to beat currencies and the place becomes a warehouse of straw and hay and even a prison.
In December, 1802, the archbishopric repossesses places. The decision of return to the worship of Saint Victor's church is taken on January 14th, 1803. The church holy Victor, who receives in 1934 the honorary title of Basilica, becomes parochial and remains so until today.