ROBERT D’ARBRISSEL / THE ECCENTRIC FOUNDER
Fontevraud Royal Abbey, a site that has for a long time been synonymous with silence, with simplicity … A site one might not imagine conducive to the production of personalities. However, some powerful personalities have marked its history, starting with its founder, Robert d’Arbrissel. The object of ferocious hostility in the Church of the 11th century, but also under the protection of Pope Urban II, the Breton preacher fascinated as much as he shocked in both turnout and practices. Once, for example, he demonstrated his vow of chastity … in a bed of women!
ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE / THE FONTEVRAUD QUEEN
Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and then of England thanks to her marriage to Henry II, is the emblematic figure of the Royal Abbey. She kept close links with Fontevraud and came here to run the affairs of the kingdom after the death of her husband. She spent the end of her life here, ordering the reclining effigies that ornament the nave of the Abbey Church. She died in her 80s in 1204.
GABRIELLE DE ROCHECHOUART / THE « PEARL OF THE ABBESSES »
Gabrielle de Rochechouart is the most famous of the Fontevraud abbesses. She was even, according to Louis XIV himself, the “pearl of the abbesses”. Hightly cultivated, the sister of Madame de Montespan turned the 17th-century Abbey into a hub of spiritual and intellectual activity. Under her ‘reign’, the Royal Abbey gradually opened up, distancing itself from d’Arbrissel’s original vow of enclosure.
JEAN GENET / THE PRISONER POET
The most famous personality of Fontevraud’s penitentiary period is none other than the poet Jean Genet. A one-time prisoner, the writer was not actually incarcerated at Fontevraud … and yet. It is he who most vividly described the difficult conditions of the city in his book The Miracle of the Rose (1946).