Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Travel Guide

  • Abbey at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    Abbey at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    by Beausoleil
  • Abbey at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    Abbey at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    by Beausoleil
  • Abbey Kitchens at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    Abbey Kitchens at Fontevraud-l'Abbaye
    by Beausoleil

Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Things to Do

  • Get a guidebook and walk through the...

    Fontevraud was protected by members of Plantagenet family so the abbey church has the very colorful tomb figures of Henri II (Plantagenet) and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. The other two painted tomb sculptures are of their eldest son Richard the Lionhearted and of Isabelle of Angouleme. The history of the era, particularly of Eleanor is...

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  • Corridors and features

    Some details along the way. A corridor here and there that will give way to views over the Grand Moutier Cloister (that earlier I called the center court!).There are two more tips in this category.If you click here, you can see those too.

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  • A final look outside

    As I was in the attic and on a second floor, I cast another look outside at those scarily neat courtyards.We had no time left to visit the other gardens and buildings. But it was impressive enough to make a very nice travel memory.I hope you enjoyed my tour through this magnificent place, in the previous 12 tips.

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  • Exhibition in the attic

    Now I can't exactly remember in which part of the cloister I was here but walking up stairs, I found myself directly under the magnificent wooden roof. You can see the similarity to ships. It really is one upside down.In this huge space I found an old mural to which I had to climb to get close.The exhibition was amazing. A photo exhibition of...

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  • The Romanesque kitchen, the inside

    The Romanesque kitchen is directly next to the calefactory, which probably explains how that huge room was heated. In many castles and manors you can see kitchens with a huge chimney rising high and ending in a little opening at the top. This kitchen had many of them. You should imagine there was one in the middle and one on top of each arched...

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  • The Romanesque kitchen, the outside.

    This was the highlight for me. First the outside. The fish scale roof, all those pointed chimneys. There was a little presentation in the kitchen of which I made some photos. Interesting builder's drawings, and old photos of how it must've looked, derelict before restauration in the 1940s. At least, that's a date that I can make out from one of the...

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  • Chauffoir (calefactory)

    What the heck is a calefactory? Seeing the French word, I suspect it has something to do with heat. But this huge HUGE room doesn't look like it has anything to do with that. Let alone that such a big space could be heated at all.However, a calefactory does mean a heated room or a room producing heat. At certain times during the day the nuns would...

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  • More beauty outside

    From the Chapter house and some corridors, I found myself outside again. On this hot day it was nice to be able to move back and forth from cool inside to warm and sunny outside. Look again how immaculate everything looks, and how well maintained both grounds and buildings.

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  • Abbesses

    Fontevrault abbey was founded in 1101 AD by a priest called Robert who was initially unsuccesful in reforming his diocese. Disappointed, he chose a hermit's life but his followers, both male and female were so many that he decided to build them an abbey.He determined that only women were to lead this abbey. The abbesses, 36 in total, reigned over...

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  • The chapter house

    A very impressive room with wall painting, depicting biblical scenes. Within these paintings the abbesses's faces are portrayed, in those biblical stories. Many of the Bourbon family can be found here.Although the room seems to be meant to confess to sins publicly (which the nuns actually used to do), the strong presence of royal names and the...

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  • The center court

    Well, I suppose you could call it a center court with the lovely trimmed hedges. A breath of warmer air after the cool of the abbey church. Note that there were not many visitors about. And the grounds are immaculate. No stray bits of paper or rubbish.

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  • More abbey church

    The sparseness continues at the altar, with an amazing light coming from behind through the windows that have not been stained, for a change.I do love stained glass, but this whiteness gives a unique atmosphere. A mural in the 3rd photo in this tip shows the names again of those famous kings, Henri II and his son Richard Lion Heart, his mother...

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  • The abbey church

    You can read all about the abbey history at the link below. There's a downloadable PDF there in English, German and French. Or click here for a 13-page history in English (PDF).I'll just share my experience here.It was very hot on the day we visited. Entering the cool white church, I was amazed at the brickwork. Almost as if it were a very modern...

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  • Stop at the Church of St. Michael

    Just outside the abbey stands the parish church of the town, St. Michael's. It is the repository for some of the items which we donated to Ste.-Marie that no longer seem appropriate, such as the finely carved 16C tabernacle at its altar and a carved crucifix from 1550.

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  • Do Not Miss the Unusual Kitchen

    The last stop is the stone kitchen next to the refectory. In recent centuries its function was unknown. Documents show it was built by a gift from Henry II in the mid-12C. It is unique among old buildings. It has a conical or rather an octagonal shape with 8 apse-like closed in fireplaces that have pipes in their roofs. Other chimneys remove the...

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  • Enter the Chapter House

    This is a marvellous Renaissance creation with graceful ribbed vaulting and 2 central pillars, like a big stone tent. In the arches along the walls are 1563 and later wall paintings by Thomas Pot of Angers (no info available on him), on the Life of Christ. Among those attending in the scenes are abbesses some of whom were added in the ensuing...

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  • Walk Around in the Cloister

    As is usual in monasteries such as this one, the main cloister lies along the south side of the church. This cloister was rebuilt in part over 50 years from 1490-1550 by successive abbesses of the Bourbon dynasty, named Renee and Louise. A monument (tomb?) with Louise's initials is in the east walk(2) and Renee's are in the tiles at the entrance to...

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  • The Royal Tombs Are in the S. Transept

    The catafalque tomb-effigies of Henry II, his wife Eleanore of Aquitaine and their son Richard the Lion Heart are in the South transept. Some of their bones have been replaced. (A fourth figure we did not picture). The remains of other "lesser" relatives are in the crypt. These unique carved limestone monuments were made just after 1200 when...

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  • Look at the Ambulatory

    The Ambulatory surrounds the altar-choir area as a tightly arcaded 10 column horse-shoe. The pillars are very slender with carved capitals. There are 3 chapels and it is sealed from the beginnings of the transepts by stone gates.

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  • Enter the Church

    The nave (restored and devoid of furnishings or altars) is very long with no aisles. It is covered by 4 cupolas (a fifth is under the tower at the crossing). This type of roofing is encontered in SW France at this time. (we saw it in Angouleme and Cahors). There is blind arcading along the walls to give a wider feel. The simpe clerestory lighting...

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  • See the Outside of the Abbey Church

    The first building that you tour is the Abbey Church of Ste-Marie (dedicated to the Virgin herself as this is primarily a nunnery), built before 1150. It has a plain Romanesque facade and two small towers. The protal has recessing arches with simple stones but the accompanying small columns have worn sculpted capitals.The door is simply decorated...

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Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Restaurants

  • ATLC's Profile Photo
    Lunch at La Croix Blanche in Fontevraud 2 more images

    by ATLC Updated Feb 21, 2008

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    This looks like a little restaurant with terrace but it actually also is a small hotel and it has function rooms too. After a long visit to the abbey, the terrace was a very welcoming sight and we dropped ourselves here quickly for a drink and lunch.

    Favorite Dish: They serve a typical lunch. It comes a traditional bread that is square and puffed up in the middle. Very light and crunchy. There are variations. One is with salads and cheeses, the other with a hot mushroom ragout (sauce), some goat's cheese and an apple tart.

    I am emailing the restaurant to ask what it is called, because I can't remember.
    However, this is a most local dish and I definitely recommend it!

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Food and Dining

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Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Transportation

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    Entrance Fontevrault-l'Abbaye

    by ATLC Updated Feb 20, 2008

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    We came here by car, approaching the village Fontevraud L'Abbaye from the D 947 (we came from Saumur). The abbey is not visible until you stand right before it, therefore you really need to follow the signs. This brings you through an area of modern family homes where you can easily park your car (free) and then walk 5 minutes to the Abbey.
    I'm telling you this because it is not immediately obvious that you are anywhere near the abbey.

    Click here for the map, where you can zoom in and out to determine your route further (depending on where you came from).

    Related to:
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Historical Travel
    • Road Trip

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Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Shopping

  • ATLC's Profile Photo
    Romanesque kitchen at Fontevrault-l'Abbaye

    by ATLC Written Feb 20, 2008

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    The Abbey has a great museum shop with loads of books (in French but also in other languages) about medieval life, history, cooking, art, etc. I browsed there for half an hour at least and picked up a typical cookbook of the region. Lots of education stuff too, for children. And I remember a load of books on herb and vegetable gardening.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Castles and Palaces

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Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Warnings and Dangers

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    Fontevrault-l'Abbaye

    by ATLC Updated Feb 21, 2008

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    There is no consensus on the spelling here. That is why many tips on Fontevrault-l'Abbaye ended up on other VT pages such as Angers or Saumur, two nearby cities (Saumur though, is the nearer).
    So VT uses Fontevrault-l'Abbaye.
    But the French Michelin guides and the actual website use: Fontevraud-l'Abbaye.
    See the map

    In any case, the postal code for this village is 49590.
    GPS : 47°10' N / 0°2' E

    You can find the general VT page for Fontevrault-l'Abbaye here.

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    • Historical Travel
    • Castles and Palaces

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Fontevrault-l'Abbaye Favorites

  • ATLC's Profile Photo
    Fontevrault-l'Abbaye

    by ATLC Written Feb 20, 2008

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    Favorite thing: At the abbey's website you can find a map of the buildings and grounds.
    Click here to download the PDF.
    Together with the description (also PDF, the English version, 13 pages) you are all set to go!

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Castles and Palaces

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