In the Chartreuse Mountains about 25 miles north of Grenoble, France there is a monastery called Grande Chartreuse. In the monastery are the heads of the Carthusian Order and they are the only world suppliers of the famous Chartreuse liqueur.
Now why would monks want to make alcohol… kind of strange right. That is what I first thought when I visited the monastery.
According to legends the, a marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, François Hannibal d’Estrées, presented the monks at Vauvert, near Paris, with an alchemical manuscript that contained a recipe for an “elixir of long life” in 1605 (Eventually called “Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse”). In eventually reached the headquarters of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in Voiron near Grenoble, where the recipe was intended to be used for medicine. The recipe apparently has 130 herbs, flowers, and secret recipes joined in a wine alcohol based.
The monks have been expelled twice from their Monastery. Once, in 1793, they were made to stop their operation until they were able to get back after several years and again in 1903 where they fled to Spain; still making the recipe. A company in Voiron tried to sell counterfeit Chartreuse but nobody bought the liqueur as it wasn’t the real deal and the company was forced to become bankrupt in 1927. A group of businessmen bought the shares and sold all of them to the Monks who were still living in Spain as a gift.
After the business was returned to the Monks the Monks soon returned to France and the French Government allowed them to make the liqueur again. Today Chartreuse is produced in Voiron, just north of Grenoble, using the mixtures that only two monks know about. The exact recipe for all forms of Chartreuse remains a secret and are known only by the two monks who prepare the herbal mixture.
Grande Chartreuse is nestled in a valley that is secluded and nobody is allowed inside the Monastery. The monks inside take a vow of silence and rarely talk to the other monks. The monks live in cells and each cell is in effect a tiny house, with a room for work, a room for prayer, a bedroom and a miniature garden. Meals are prepared by lay brothers and are passed through a hatch. On average a monk prays in silence for 8 hours a day. To look at a Carthusians full day you can click on this.
Here is a video that shows the beauty of Grande Chartreuse! Props to valpard for making such a perfect video.
If you would like more information about it feel free to ask me or you can look it up at http://www.chartreux.org/en/
Also look into watching Into the Silence by Philip Gröning! It’s a documentary about the life of the monks and can be seen on Netflix.
And here some of my photos and my one video of when it hailed on us in Grande Chartreuse!
images by: shawnvoyage.com