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When in the U.S., I look for a “Made in the U.S.” label and when I am in France I do the same thing, except that I am looking for a “Made in France” label. If you are a label checker, I propose an easy solution for your gift buying needs while in France. The Artisanat Monastique offers a large variety of products and services at fair prices. Everything that they offer is made in France with a commitment to the environment. As an added bonus, many of their products have a unique history that goes back hundreds of years.
In 1951, an association was born to protect the monastic institutions in France by organizing and assisting them with the production and sale of the products that they manufacture. The organization is A.T.C. (Aide au Travail des Cloîtres). The important outcome of this association is that it has allowed the monks and cloistered sisters to support themselves. The association includes Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations.
The Paris boutique is located within the Monastère de la Visitation. This Order of the Visitation was initially founded in 1610 in Annecy by Saint François de Sales and Sainte Jeanne Françoise de Chantal. The pair subsequently established an order in Paris in the year 1619. Following several temporary locations the community settled on rue Saint Antoine in 1629. However, during the Revolution, the sisters were dispersed. Some of the sisters were able to regroup in the year 1807 and re-established their order in 1841 at the current location on avenue Denfert Rochereau.
There are now seven monastic stores in France and they represent more than 200 religious communities. Products are diverse and include organic wines, painted earthenware, hand carved wooden statues, children’s clothes, cologne, beauty creams and food products. Some abbeys are performing traditional embroidery and some are offering bookbinding and carpet repair.
Many of the goodies that can be purchased at the boutiques are old favorites like moutarde au miel à l’Ancienne, herbes de Provence and olive oils infused with herbs. You can count on finding chocolate along with a large variety of liqueurs.
Cassis is a french liqueur that is used to make the very popular Kir cocktail. A Kir cocktail is made with a measure of crème de cassis and toped with white wine. It is usually drunk as an apéritif before a meal or with a snack. The Cassis liquor has been produced by the Monastère de la Grande Chartreuse since the early 1700s.
Chartreuse is another French liqueur that has been made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737 from a recipe documented in a manuscript from 1605.
I am personally very fond of the Miel de Chataignier (honey from chestnut flowers) produced by the Abbaye Sainte Marie du Désert.
The monks from the Abbaye de Sept-Fons in Dompierre are producing Germaflex. This is a dietary supplement rich in collagen, glucosamine, calcium and a variety of essential minerals to improve and protect the joints.
At the Artisanat Monastiques the list of products from practical to exotic is endless. With the holiday season fast approaching and the ever ending need for gifts to take back home, I encourage you to visit one of France’s Artisanat Monastique boutiques.
The Paris boutique (www.artisanatmonastique.com) is located at 68 bis, Avenue Denfert Rochereau in the 14th arrondissement. It is open from Monday to Friday from 12 to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. There are three métros stops in close proximity. They are Port- Royal (line 7), Raspail (lines 4 and 6) and Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4 and 6, and RER B).
Besides Paris, you can find an Artisanat Monastique in Lyon, Lille, Rennes, Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille. (The addresses and contact numbers are listed below.)
Lille : Paravis Notre Dame de la Treille, Place Gilleson, 59800 Lille, Tel. 03 20 55 22 19 Lyon : 11 rue du Plat, 69002 Lyon, Tel. 04 78 42 82 45
Marseille : rue Paradis, 13008 Marseille, Tel. 04 91 71 32 87
Nantes : 16 rue de Budapest, 44000 Nantes, Tel. 01 40 29 29 02 09
Rennes : 40 rue d’Entrain, 35700 Rennes, Tel. 02 99 38 95 85
Toulouse : 11 rue Fermat, 31000 Toulouse, Tel. 05 61 55 51 00
Lead photo credit : the Artisanat Monastique boutique by Loui Franke