Fontevraud Royal Abbey, situated where the three regions of Poitou, Anjou and Touraine meet, is one of the largest surviving monastic cities from the Middle Ages.
AT THE MEETING POINT OF THREE REGIONS … / AN UNIQUE SITE
The Abbey was listed as an Historic Monument in 1840, and, as part of the Loire Valley, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. In a green valley just a few kilometres from the Loire River, near Saumur, Fontevraud is one of the unmissable stops on a visit to the Loire Valley. A stop, but also a destination … an essentially unique site!
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 spent the end of her life here, ordering the reclining effigies that ornament the nave of the Abbey Church.
A ‘SINGULAR FOUNDATION’ / FOUR PRIORIES RUN BY A WOMAN
Since its creation nearly a thousand years ago by an eccentric monk, the Abbey has always been a ‘singular foundation’. A place of social and sexual diversity! The Abbey was run by an abbess, who gave shelter to men and women in the four priories: Sainte-Marie for the ‘contemplatives’, Sainte-Marie-Madeleine for the lay sisters, Saint-Jean de l’Habit for the monks, and Saint-Lazare for nuns caring for lepers.
FROM AN ABBEY CHERISHED BY KINGS / TO ONE OF THE MOST FEARED PRISONS
The 13 hectares over which the various buildings are spread, today teeming with life (artists, visitors, conference attendees), illustrate the importance of an Abbey that was directly attached to royalty. The reclining effigies of Eleanor of Aquitaine, of her husband Henry 2nd and of their son Richard the Lionheart, seen in the Abbey Church, are a reminder of this glorious past. To stroll along the cloister, to visit the chapter house or the kitchens of the Royal Abbey, gives an understanding of the daily lives of the nuns who lived here. Not forgetting its later incarnation, in the 19th century, as one of the toughest prisons in France …