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)

monk of Saint-Benoît-du-LacAmong 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?

51 replies on “Abbey of Saint-Benoît-du-Lac / Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups”

I have only just found Louise Penny books, very good reading, but where is the monastery
of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups situated?

There is no actual abbey. The abbey is probably modeled after the – Abbey of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac which is in Quebec.

Gregorian chant always lifts me out of my pain racked old body, raises my soul up and fills me with both great joy and great sorrow. I have a wide collection of chants on disc, and when living in Europe, I loved going to churches where Gregorian Chant was the liturgy, no musical instruments other than the beautiful voices, the gift of God to the choir and often the congregation. As a part of the mass, Gregorian Chant is a deeply sacred and stirring form of worship. When I read The Beautiful Mystery part of me long for that total dedication to a life of seclusion, in joyful harmonious prayer lifted up to God and Jesus, Mary and all that we humans long for.

Your response moved me. I share many of your thoughts: When I read The Beautiful Mystery part of me long for that total dedication to a life of seclusion, in joyful harmonious prayer lifted up to God and Jesus, Mary and all that we humans long for

I grew up in an Episcopal parish with a choir director who taught us Anglican Chant. The practice of chanting brings the words into focus and has a way of being meditative at the same time. Today we use modified Anglican Chant although St Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle has the service of Compline every Sunday night. The Cathedral is always full — a perfect way to end your Sunday. The choir is made up of 16 men’s voices and has been in existence since the 1950’s.

“The Beautiful Mystery” is the book that completely captivated me and drew me in to read all the others. I didn’t realize at the time that it was a series, it just happened to be what was on the library shelf. I was enthralled with all of it and longed to actually hear what Gamache was hearing. Since being smitten by that first book, I am a committed Louise Penny/Armand Gamache fan.

Beautiful Mystery is my favorite, but I always tell people to start at the beginning. The development of the whole arc is perfect. Even when rereading the books I love to see the development.

I read this for the title–had read the first of her Gamache books and wasn’t sure I wanted to read another. Now I am listening to them all on CD–read by a man with a very fine voice for them. Still think this one will be the touchstone for the series.

I think this is the most beautiful of the Gamache books – and perhaps, a little respite before the great suspense and fear brought out in How the Light Gets In. I found the Abbey such a calm, reassuring place to “be” while I read the book – and I think I needed that to be ready for the rest. After Bury Your Dead, we were in such pain for Armand, and after The Beautiful Mystery, we were strong enough again to face what lay ahead. Perfect timing on Louise Penny’s part – but just what you’d expect from one as expert as she.

I first met Gamache in this book. It was read by Jim Fleming on Wisconsin Public Radio’s program “Chaper A Day” about a year and a half ago.

Our local library had “Bury Your Dead” so I read that one first and it is still my favorite. Like Lois Dunnington, it just happened to be what was on the library shelf. The Champlain thread was so fascinating, I had to read the rest of the books.

Jim Fleming has the perfect voice to read this book. I think that Chapter a Day introduced many Wisconsin Public Radio fans to these beautiful Louise Penny books.

I love Three Pines, but I also loved visiting the monastery for The Beautiful Mystery. I am Eastern Orthodox and we have a different chant tradition, but I love Gregorian chant and loved having it be the central theme of the book. It’s nice to know the real monastery is a place I could visit if I ever make it to Quebec.

Maurice in Vermont, just south of the Border with Quebec. The book and the comments are most touching. I grew up with Gregorian Chant and found myself enlightened by the reply that Gregorian stirs our emotions as well as our memory, so true!

“The Beautiful Mystery” was also my first Gamache book. What a wonderful journey it has been to read all the other books chronologically. But “The Beautiful Mystery” remains my favorite.

I have read and listened to your books on audible. I love the voice of Ralph Cosham (hope I spelt that right). He is a perfect voice for Gamage.

I am going to read this book on my holidays. St. Benoit is just down the road from my home town of Magog, Quebec. We have been there many many times. Now that we live in Ontario we always visit the abbey to get our fix of curd cheese, caramel sauce, etc.
We also go into the chapel to listen to the monks, it seems each year there are less.
Such a beautiful place, so peaceful!

A friend told me about Louise Penny, so I went to the library and found the Beautiful Mystery. Then I went back to book #1 and read them all – rereading Beautiful again. The first time I had no idea of why or how Jean-Guy Beauvoir had become addicted to the pain killers. It was as though the clues to a second mystery were revealed as I read the first books. Actually I’m glad I began with the Beautiful Mystery,

I am rereading Beautiful Mystey now … First time through I read it while listening to Gregorian Chant …it was fabulous to hear those voices while reading yours!
Thank you for all of your wonderful works!

The Beautiful Mystery is enchanting, suspenseful, spiritual, and thought-provoking. I enjoy getting to know Gamache more in each book I read. He’s a truly amazing person. I was excited about The Beautiful Mystery being set in some place other than Three Pines since the monastery is a very intriguing setting for me.

I loved this book and I know th real abbey. Gregorian and orher regious chants are one of our cultural treasures – just listened to some exquisite relugious chants in two German cathedrals this spring: divine. The novel also had the monks make blueberry chocolates. The monks in Mistassini in Quebec do make such chocolates when wild blueberries are in seasom. You get fresh blueberries in dark chocolate which is exquisite and only available in summer in Quebec. When I gifted the novel to a friend I found the chocolates for him – that’s how I enjoyed the book myself, vert soothing – thank you Louise 🙂

I enjoyed reading the comments of those who had enjoyed the book and liked Gregorian as much as I. I had read of Gregorian Chants but did not hear them until I was a Freshman music major in college. This was in 1958. Music was on records or large reel to reel tapes for the most part. Our Prof brought in a record player and an album of Chants. The six of us sat transfixed as our souls soared with the music. To me the Chants represent true worship and adoration using the voices given by God.
The the peace usually found in the Monastery, even though there was a murder investigation underway then, gave me a sense of calm and serenity. The sure and certain knowledge that God reigns.
Personally, I like for the books to include Three Pines. Trips away from the Village are essential and have been well written but I need a Three Pines Fix in each book.
The info on the real Abby was very interesting. Don’t you enjoy the way we learn from Louise Penny’s books and the sites that were her inspiration.
Please join us on the Bistro site. The Nature of the Beast comes out next month, Aug 25th I think. Drop by and give the postings a read. Sometimes it may seem that we are having personal conversations, but we have been through last year’s reread and then the Bistro was set up for us to continue our discussions on the books and other subjects. Just jump in. After reading what has been written here, I think everyone has something to offer. We do not always agree but we all grow by sharing ideas.
See you at The Bistro.

Does anyone know who sang the chant used in the beginning of the audiobook version of The Beautiful Mystery? My iPhone apps can’t identify it (SoundHound, Shazam, or MusicID). I would love to buy the recording. I have quite a few Gregorian Chant recordings in my music library but I was unable to match the chant sung in the audiobook with any of those. I hope someone knows …

The music used for “The Beautiful Mystery” is the medieval old roman chant (6th century AD) “Kyrie Eleison”. Many versions of this chat exist but the version on the program was composed by Simon Park.

I love the whole series and eagerly await the new book. Like so many have already commented, The Beautiful Mystery captivated me. Transported me. What a marvel it would be to visit the abbey. I’m glad to know of its existence.
Thank you!

The Beautiful Mystery is one of my favorites! I agree with a lot of your comments and love how chants transport us to the Divine! I love to soar with them (altho I’ m sure my family wishes I could sing like them!) I particularly love the way Louise describes Gamache’s first impression upon arriving in the abbey; preparing his eyes to adjust to the darkness, he was surprise by the ” giddy light” . Seems Louise works her theme of light into all her books! I did enjoy having the abbey as setting for this book, altho naturally I love Three Pines! This atmosphere seemed to strengthen Gamache for the heartbreak he went thru watching Jean Guy’s downfall.

Bonjour, I am visiting Quebec as a result of the series. How do I access the complete list of real places. Merci, Nancy

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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 .

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.

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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

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!

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.

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